Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Heart Of Darkness

March 10, 2009

Spoiler Alert for Heart of Darkness!

Brace yourselves, for you are about to embark, not literally but most definitely figuratively, on a dubiously deep and deviant rabidrunner interpretation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

Heart of Darkness is a good read if you like flowery and descriptive discourse. It took a bit of time to get into a routine with this one, but once I did, wow! My only critique is the mismanagement of paragraphs (get a load of moi telling Joseph Conrad how to do paragraphs). You can say that I'm afraid of paragraphs that span pages. Or you can say that I like short paragraphs. Either way... Joey? Can you shorten the paragraphs in your next edition? That'd be great.

Basically there's this guy named Marlow. Marlow has been hired to ride a steamboat down (or up?) the dark and dreary Congo to retrieve a fellow employee named Kurtz. Kurtz has gone mad, established himself as a deity to the savages, and is hoarding ivory.

Being capitalist 'n all, I don't think the trading company cared much about him going mad or the deity impersonations. They wanted that ivory! Maybe because they were backed up on their piano orders?  What else do you make with ivory?

Anyway, Kurtz is an ego-centric and new-age minded sophisticate with a terrible case of "short man syndrome". (Kurtz means short in German... How clever is it then, that the author named him Kurtz?) After spending many months in the darkness alone - gathering the riches of ivory and manipulating the natives - Kurtz proclaims himself ruler and almighty of the Congo and its ivory.

So Marlow takes the several-month voyage to find Kurtz, bring him back, and establish order to the ivory trade. It was a dark and dreary adventure. "Going up the river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances."

When Marlow's company finally arrives upon King Kurtz and his savages, they are attacked and one crew member is killed. Further investigation reveals that the Kurtz Klan performed ritualistic ceremonies and circled the primitive outskirts of their dwellings with human heads on sticks. To this, Marlow says... "his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by heavens I tell you, it had gone mad."

When they find Kurtz within the darkness of his surroundings, he is sick and near death. Just before Kurtz dies, and with Marlow at his side, Kurtz illuminates his bright and ferocious future with his final words, "The horror! The horror!"

Evidently Kurtz had a good look at where he was going.

The darkness, as Marlow describes it, is in all of us. We are all capable of being dark. Pride, greed, and other ills will drive us to darkness. Humility and a self-check now and again, may keep us in the light.

There you have it. Book report a la rabidrunner.

I did, however, receive an interesting enlightenment on this one. It occurred to me that this Heart of Darkness tale would be a great companion to the stay-at-home-mom handbook. The moral? In your attempt to curtail the savage beasts that you birthed (adopted, inherited, sat on, etc.), keep the pride to a minimum. Otherwise you'll go mad and mumble "The horror! The horror!"

(Actually, you WILL mumble The Horror! The Horror! even if you haven't gone mad. It'll just be the frustration. The trick will be to know the difference...buwah hah hah hah hah!)

1 comment:

The MacMizzles said...

I am pretty sure I've gone mad...should I still read this book?