A reflection on “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad


I took a class this past semester called “Readings in the Short Story,” and we were asked to read “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, then write a reflection about it.  My professor is pretty liberal with our writing, and only gives us some ideas to write about.  We’re never confined to stay strictly with the ideas he has given us, unless he wants us to answer a specific question.  If he does ask a specific question, we have the freedom to answer it in any way we choose…as long as it’s written and stays on topic.  In fact, his only request is that we write about whatever story we recently read, and it has to be at least one page…you know, to ensure some actual thought went into the writing.  The following paragraphs are my thoughts…my reflection on Conrad’s story.

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Heart of Darkness reflection

I’m not exactly sure where to begin with this story.  I had to read it a second time, because I kept falling asleep and losing track of where I was with the story.  However, once I figured out a good strategy for digesting the material, I was hooked.  The story doesn’t start off in a way that will grab your attention and suck you in…it does take some time to get there.  Once I got there, I was good with the story and the flow of it.  I also began to glean a deeper meaning, or another way to look at the story.  When I began to think about what Conrad’s message was, I began to realize that this story can be considered an allegory.  This story shows how the human mind can be effected by its surroundings, and by experiencing trauma.

When you take a step back and look at the big picture, you first see Marlowe as the man who was changed by his experiences.  During his storytelling, he explains how he felt and his perspective, which helps you to see who he was before going to the Congo.  We watch the transformation, we watch him go from Marlowe the proper Englishman to Marlowe the guy who was transformed by life in the Congo.  This story telling, or transformation, can be adapted to just about anyone on the planet.  At one point or another, we all experience some sort of trauma—be it tragic or jubilant.

Those who are imprisoned experience a transformation.  Some are transformed into a better person during their time behind bars, while others become worse.  Some inmates allow their surroundings to take them over and make them become the hell that is the prison system.  However, there are some who are strong enough to resist that type of change.  There are some who can learn to adapt to their daily schedule without allowing the environment to become who they are.  They will go through some sort of change, who wouldn’t in that type of environment?  The difference is how each person allows the environment to effect them.  Some  continue their bad behaviors once released, while few others are able to maintain a stable life and do not return to prison.  

Another comparison is a woman before, during, and after childbirth.  Not all women go through a change or transformation, but I know many who have.  Before pregnancy, a woman may drink more or be a little bit more of a risk taker.  Why not?  She doesn’t have any responsibilities, right?  Then, the pregnancy begins the change of her perception—she begins to think about her decisions and how she lives her life.  She’ll think about her actions and if they are unbecoming of a good mother, and if she’d be happy about how she lived her life before having a child.  The physical act of giving birth, however, is traumatic for a woman.  All of the changes her body goes through during the nine months of carrying the child, then the length of time that the birthing process takes place, and at the end it all just suddenly stops.  That’s a lot for a woman to process, and it can be extremely taxing on her mentality, just like Marlowe’s experience in the Congo.

The Congo symbolizes any traumatic or tragic experience that a person can/will experience in his or her lifetime.  Marlowe symbolizes the person who is effected by the tragedy, but hasn’t been sucked in to it.  Kurtz symbolizes the person who is changed and succumbs to the tragedy, or the environment where the tragedy took place.  Marlowe’s audience symbolizes those who will come along in your life that will benefit from your story in one way or another.  

An interesting element that Conrad used is the three characters who have no names, but are referred to by their occupation.  The Director of Companies, or the captain, symbolizes trust, as stated in the text, “He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified.”  The Lawyer symbolizes wisdom, while the accountant symbolizes the good in any situation.  

I’m not exactly sure if it was Conrad’s intention to make this story allegorical.  However, that’s not the point, because he crafted an intricate story so wonderfully that no matter how many times you read it, you’ll get something different out of it every time.  I can definitely see this story being read for at least another hundred years, if not for the story itself, but for the fine craftsmanship and appreciation of an incredible read.

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Life has happened…


Wow, the past nine months have been so busy, but these last four have just about killed me!  Between school, homework, papers, my son, his therapy, and life, I’ve just about got enough left over to be a regular person.  This Spring semester was the hardest.  I almost literally never really had time to just breathe and get organized.  It was always one thing after another, and I was constantly trying to write papers in between EVERYTHING else.  My weeks were constantly on-the-go, and could hardly get enough time to completely finish a thought…let alone write it down.  However, the semester has ended and I find myself with some “spare” time.  I have begun making para cord bracelets (see my Etsy page:  www.etsy.com/shop/brennasbeans and facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/brennasbeans).  I’ve also started a Facebook page for parents who have children with Autism (https://www.facebook.com/thorandherhammer), so parents have a place to vent, praise, and learn about their Au-some kiddos.

My hope for this summer:  to do well in school, build my bracelet business, shed some light on Autism and what it’s like to be Autistic, work on my novel, read A LOT, and write more poetry.  I did manage to write about six poems this semester (I’ll post them separately later), and they’re actually pretty good.  Each poem has a bit of a description since they were written for my Intro. to Poetry class, but I’m happy with them.  I’ve never had to write a poem where I was told that it had to reflect something/someone else or someone else’s work, so it helped me to exercise my poetry brain.

I took a class called Readings in the Short Story, and that one really helped me figure something out.  I’m just not cut out for writing a novel.  For our final paper, we had to either write a short story or do a research paper which had something to do with one of the stories we read for the class.  I decided to use a section of my novel for this purpose, because I figured the story was already there and I could just edit it for content and structure.  I seriously thought it would be a piece of cake.  I was so totally wrong!  It took me over a week to edit it enough to be somewhat satisfied with it, and I still wasn’t done.  Granted, my professor said it didn’t have to be perfect, but it had to be perfect for me.  I was my novel after all.  I have no idea what kind of grade I got on it, but I did get an A for the class…like I’d get anything less ;).  Anyway, after working on that section of my novel, I decided that maybe it would be better if I turned it into a short story.  I could divide the entire novel into shorter sections that could stand alone, and would also tie into the other sections.  It would help to alleviate the stress of getting the first draft done, and it would also make the editing less time consuming.

You see, short stories don’t necessarily need excessive detail and it’s a bit easier to leave out back story.  You can just essentially write a scene and be done.  There’s no need for great details, because it’s all left to the reader.  However, by linking the short stories together, questions will be answered, but the reader can still use his/her imagination to put the pieces together…or they can choose to just see each part as individual stories.  I so love this idea much better…plus I can throw some poetry in there and books can fly off the shelves!

On that note, I think I’ll get back to my motherly duties…you know…laundry, cleaning, and paperwork for the Little Dude’s therapy stuff.

Have a great day, and I’ll see you all soon 🙂