Discuss Conrad’s art of characterization in Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness

 Discuss Conrad’s art of characterization in Heart of

Ans. Heart of Darkness is a masterpiece which reflects Conrad’s
superb mastery in art of characterization. Keeping in view of Aristotle’s
‘Poetics’ Conrad has chosen life-like characters in Heart of Darkness. In
it, few characters are drawn from the real-life of Conrad, such as
Marlow’s aunt is Conrad’s real aunt who helped him a lot. Mr. Kurtz
represents Mr. Klein who was one of the company agents whose health
had been failing and Conrad’s main duty was to bring him back.
The characters in Conrad’s novels are neither utter idealist nor
moralist. His characters are completely devoid of virtue or sin. They
are normal human beings possessing both merits and demerits,
virtue and vice. For example, in Heart of Darkness both Marlow and
Mr. Kurtz are major characters, portrayed realistically. In spite of
being a moralist, Marlow falls an easy prey to Mr. Kurtz’s bewitching
personality. Though he is intelligent and well-educated, he finds
something irresistible in Mr. Kurtz. Again Mr. Kurtz, in spite of his
being a scholar, a civilized Whiteman, and moralist, becomes very
inhuman, cruel, and savage because of his prolonged stay in the dark
region of Congo. The rest of the characters, the Accountant, the
Manager, the Brickmaker, the native woman, and Mr. Kurtz’s fiancee,
the Intended are ordinary people whom we see in our daily life.
Conrad has given us three-dimensional characters, portrayed
from outside, inside, and judged by other’s views. Marlow, the
narrator has given detailed pictures of the characters, their age,
dress, style, movement, behavior, their traits, and attitudes. For
example, the accountant is presented with his sophisticated
fashionable dress, his organizing ability, etc. His inner self is revealed
when he talks about Mr. Kurtz. He is a strong-built man with sharp
blue eyes and a smile that is not a smile at all. The Brickmaker is
presented as “papier-mache Mephistopheles”. Mr. Kurtz is presented
by the judgments of other characters and by Marlow’s comments
after meeting him. Thus each character is portrayed from several
angles—outwardly, inwardly, and measured by others also.
Further, we notice the impact of the stream of consciousness
technique in the art of characterization in Heart of Darkness. We
know that Marlow is describing not only a physical journey in the
dark region of Congo but also an exploration into the realms of the
minds of the characters, their feelings, sensations, and emotions. We
see Marlow in the course of giving the details of characters he
encounters, laying more emphasis on revealing their inside, in other
words, their sub-conscious levels of the minds. He also explores
his own mind when he narrates the story.
To sum up, Conrad’s characterization is basically impression •
and based upon the technique of the stream of consciousness of 2
century novel.