In Heart of Darkness, Marlowes tale begins and ends in literal darkness and even though Joseph Conrad allows many themes to present themselves, the strongest always prevails, Marlows darkness. The setting of the novel is often utterly dark, such as when Marlowe retrieves Kurtz or possibly the black skinned people that live along the Congo River; and, of course, the uncertain, almost eerie tone that suffocates the novel.
Darkness can, for example, represent evil, the unknown, mystery, sadness or fear. Also important is the way darkness and light can be used to represent two opposite emotions or concepts. Darkness and light in Conrads novel are used to represent the dark skinned vs. white, illusion vs. reality and many others.
Conrad uses darkness in several ways, whether its to represent the unknown or to trick the minds of the characters into being more frightened than necessary. Many times in the novel the characters are not afraid of the darkness itself, but what lies within it. One of the most alarming scenes occurs when the men aboard the fog-bound steamer hear a loud cry from somewhere around them. It is particularly frightening because the men know some potential threat is near, but they cannot see it; it is simply out there in the darkness, waiting.Order now
In the beginning of the novel, it has a tone of serenity and peacefulness when suddenly something happens. Not an event or an action, but the emergence of a voice. Marlow, while remaining in “the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes” (20), begins to speak. ‘And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth. I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago–the other day.