Reoccuring Motifs Exist in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Within Heart of Darkness, there are many different reoccurring motifs. These motifs help drive the plot and reveal deeper meanings in the novel. One of these motifs is Conrads use of fire. Throughout the novel, Conrad uses fire to describe objects, reveal elements of the novel, and symbolize deeper meanings. Early in chapter one, the sun is described like fire. Dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men. This statement was made to describe the scene, and paint a larger picture of what to come. Flames glided in the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other – then separating slowly or hastily. This scene describes lights bouncing off of the river as flames. A dying mans eyes were described as a white flicker which died out slowly. This implies that the mans eyes were like fire, burning brightly until close to death, then flickering and dying out. Another use of fire is the revealing aspect that it has. The events that surround the burning of the shed reveal the apparent hopelessness of the area. The effect of the torchlight on the face (of a woman carrying a torch) was sinister. When Marlow is observing a picture of a woman holding a torch in what is otherwise darkness, that torchlight reveals the contrast between light and dark, good and evil. When Kurtzs worshippers keep a vigil for Kurtz, they light a big fire. It showed that Kurtz had truly misused and misled these natives. A light was burning within, but Mr. Kurtz was not there. This makes sense in a physical aspect, because candles were the major source of artificial light at the time. However, the candle also reveals the light and dark issue, implying that Kurtz was not near the light, so he was in the darkness.

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