Heart of Darkness- Indulgence of the Unknown

          Heart of Darkness is a very obvious example of a Gothic novel. It challenges the inner workings of the human mind and elaborates on horror.  Marlow and other characters constantly address spirits, ghosts, and demons which are known in Gothics and fear is a common theme. Marlow sees many frightful visions and shapes that parallel the fright in his heart for the fate of morals and deconstruction of his own self.

And the memory of what I had heard him say afar there, with the horned shapes stirring at my back, in the glow of fires, within the patient woods, those broken phrases came back to me, were heard again in their ominous and terrifying simplicity. (Heart 151)
A recognition of the horror within the self is present in these lines. The horned shapes stirring at his back are the demons and evils that lurk around and within him. The theme of darkness fuels the theme of fear and in turn a theme of utter lost-ness. Marlow's direction in this novel become more and more muddled as he loses track of what the moral path should look like and becomes more vulnerable to the thoughts of evil. In fact as the novel goes on he starts to become more characteristic a Gothic hero, becoming more flawed even to the point of telling complete fables. A certain fascination begins to exist for the objects and souls that appear flawed and different as this development within himself grows.

These moribund shapes were free as air--and nearly as thin. I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face near my hand. (Heart 81-82)
The idea of accepting the unknown into one's life and dealing with strange and foreign events that challenge the morality is a token of the Gothic. Marlow's acceptance and reformation of codes for living is similar to Catherine Earnshaw's acceptance and struggles with Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. It is very difficult when facing the unknown (as Heathcliff's existence to Catherine was), to understand the difference between right and wrong and which direction should be undertook after no chance for you to live completely "normal" exists. Marlow indulges in this trial, this horror.
It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river. (Heart 95)
Even in this excerpt Marlow faces a horror in the darkness that becomes personified, carrying a shape without lips. This narrative appears only to Marlow it seduces him into the darkness speaking intimately, only to him, so as to draw him deeper into the mysteries of the heart. As Conrad continues to bring significance into the dark, the unknown, that which causes fright, so as to highlight how it can apply to the soul of a human, his novel falls under the category of a Gothic.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. NY, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1988.

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