“Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness exemplifies a psychological journey which can be summarised in Kurtz’ last words “The horror, the horror.”
Discuss how Conrad has conveyed this journey and explore your interpretation of Kurtz’s final words.” The physical, temporal and psychological journey within Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness epitomizes both Marlow's and humanity's collective psychological transformation upon perceiving the darkness inherent to both the core the psyche and civilisation, encompassed by Kurtz's deliberately ambiguous final words, "The horror, the horror". The structure and style of the novella, the frequent emphasis on humanity's proclivity to savagery, and the utilization of duality reinforce a psychoanalytical analysis of Heart of Darkness, while Kurtz's foreboding remark illustrates the multiplicity of interpretations possible for the 'Darkness' itself.
The structure and style of Joseph Conrad's critique of European imperialism serve to emphasise the allegorical nature of the novella and strengthen a psychoanalytic perspective that the narrative details not merely Marlow's physical journey up the river, but the internal journey into himself. An allegorical novella written in frame narration, Heart of Darkness exists as a narration of a physical, temporal and psychological journey through the jungle, back in time and into the psyche itself, accruing layers of meaning and depth. The sparse plot and a distinct lack of a climax suggest that the events within the novella cannot simply be interpreted literally, but must facilitate the mental transformation the protagonist, Charles Marlow. The lack of a definite article within the title suggests a dislocation of individual meaning and promotes a plurality of interpretations, mirroring the ambiguity of "The horror, the horror." There is more than one heart of darkness, as there is more than one ‘horror’ within the novel. Conrad stresses the role of narration as the key to transmit meaning, and this is evident in the use of frame narration and the invisible narrator’s statement that "The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But to (Marlow) the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze.” By contrasting the simplicity of other tales to Marlow’s, Conrad effectively exposes the allegorical nature of the text and impresses on his audience the significance of its structure. Instead of an easily accessible and interpretable meaning, to decipher Heart of Darkness the entire plot, form and context must be considered before the author's intended message is apparent. The simile of 'As only a glow brings out a haze' reinforces the role of the sparse plot, three-part structure of Outer Station, Inner Station and Central Station, the frame narration and allegory as literary devices to highlight the progression of Marlow's psychological journey as well as his physical journey. Along with Kurtz's words "The horror, the horror," a summation of his life's experiences and the darkness he perceived, the structure and deliberate pacing of the plot reinforce an interpretation of the novella detailing the internal transformations of humanity, personified as Kurtz and Marlow, once social constructs and civilisation are stripped away. Throughout the novella, Conrad consistently emphasises the darkness at the core of the psyche and at the root of civilisation, evident in the repetition of the motif of darkness and allusions to Dante's hellish Inferno and the Greek Fates. Conrad continuously builds an intensely charged, brooding atmosphere revealed by the external environment, such as the ‘gloomy haze’ above London, or the conflict between the characters. Considering that structure and style is essential to understanding the meaning within, it is clear that the constant evocation of the external 'darkness'