Discuss the theme of self-restraint in Heart of Darkness.
How far is it correct to say that self-restraint is a major
theme in Heart of Darkness?
Ans. Self-restraint is an important theme in Heart of Darkness
though not a major theme. This theme expounds Conrad’s
philosophy that through devotion to duty man can discharge his
obligation to society. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow is saved by
restraint, while Kurtz is doomed by the lack of it.
As a corrupting influence on both the rulers and the ruled. While
focussing on the evil of imperialism, Forster takes recourse to
humour, irony, and satire which lie scattered all through the book.
The use of humour tinged with a mild satire may be noted in the
first chapter when the omniscient narrator describes
very chandrapore which seems to be divided into two towns: the English
Civil Station and the native section, the one having nothing to do
with the other.
The Civil Station “shares nothing with the city except
the overarching sky”. Again the porti•ayal of Prof. Godbole is an
excellent example of Forster’s gift of humour. In a vision Godbole
sees a wasp with a human figure—that of Mrs. Moore—and loves both
equally, though being a human being, he cannot love a lifeless stone.
The description of the agony and discomfiture of the Collector of
Chandrapore, Mr. Turton, on coming to know of the incident at the
caves is in a satirical vein which has a touch of Forster’s pleasant
humour. There is a mild satirical tone in the outburst of Mr. Turton,
“New-comers set our tradition aside, and in an instant what you see
happens; the work of years is undone”.
However, Forster’s tone of satire tinged with irony becomes a bit
pungent while he portrays the character of Ronny Heaslop, the
magistrate of Chandrapore city. During his conversation with his
mother, Mrs. Moore, Ronny says, “we are out here to do justice and
keep peace”, and again he says, “we’re not pleasant in India, and we
don’t intend to be pleasant. We’ve something more important to do”.
The ‘Bridge Party’ is a brilliant example of Forster’s satire on the
English bureaucrats in India. He sensibly and boldly attacks the
“exalted and self-sublimated” cadre of British officials, the so-called
I.C.S. officers. He makes the ‘Bridge Party’ at the European club
appear very funny and ridiculous. Thus, the ‘Bridge Party’ is
completely a failure.
Further, the trial of Dr. Aziz is the finest and sharpest of satirical
hits which Forster has aimed at the self-cultivated superiority of the
British officials. The English with a sense of pride and self-assurance
occupy the platform in the court. But they are compelled to get down
when the defence lawyer objects to their audacity for occupying the
sits in the platform. This trial episode provides a brilliant example of
the climax of Forster’s satirical humour.
Thus, we can conclude saying that through a successful use of
and humour, Forster in A Passage to India questions the
t of the British to be in India. The very title of the novel has a symbolic meaning in addition to
its literal meaning. The literal meaning of the phrase “Heart of
Darkness” is the inmost region of the dark country known as the
Congo but symbolically it refers to the innermost region of a man,s
mind, the dark recess of the sub-conscious state of his mind.
Marlow’s journey to the dark continent symbolically means his
descent into the depth of his own psyche.
Almost all the characters in Heart of Darkness bear symbolic
significance. Mr. Kurtz, for example, the protagonist suggests the
white man’s greed for wealth, commercial mentality, and passion for
power. He also represents a penitent sinner as well as a civilized man,
turned into an evil spirit under the influence of barbarism and
savagery. Marlow symbolizes the spirit of adventure, love of
knowledge, a thoughtful observer of human life, a psychologist, and a
civilized man under the influence of the savage and primitive
instincts. Among other characters, the Manager of the Central Station
symbolizes inefficiency, spiritual emptiness, and barrenness. The
Brickmaker, who acts as an informer to the Manager, symbolizes
cunningness and treachery.
The white men who are termed “Faithless
Pilgrims” represent the complete absence of faith, moral or belief. They
also symbolize parasites of the Belgian Trading Company. The
‘cannibal crew’ who do not kill the white men in order to eat their
flesh in spite of starving badly, symbolize self-restraint.
“There are few other symbolical elements such as ivory which
signifies white men’s greed for wealth. It is ivory which motivates them to
come over the dark region of Congo. On account of this greed, they do
not hesitate to IGII even one another. Again many sights seen by
in the course of his journey also have symbolic significance.
For example, the French warships firing aimlessly at the forests, and the
rock being blasted with gunpowder symbolize futile and aimless action.,
ofDarkness is replete with various types of
fact, it is through the appropriate use of symbols that Conrad has been
able to convey the theme of his novel to the readers most effecüvely.