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Joseph Conrads “Heart of Darkness” in a Jungian light - Marlows process for individuation
2000 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a narrative told by Charlie Marlow reflecting back upon a journey he has undertaken up a river into the interior of Africa. The novel begins at anchor near London, on the Thames, as Marlow, the first narrator, informs his fellow shipmates of his earlier experiences while waiting ”for the turn of the tide” (15). Like many of Conrad’s other literary works Heart of Darkness to a great extent deals with inner motives and desires that only can be revealed in strange lands and dark places. This is one of the reasons why the novel can be regarded as an outer physical as well as an inner psychological journey in which Marlow explores both the material and the psychical reality. That this journey can be understood not only on a geographical level but on a deeper level as well, is for example explained by Marlow’s description of the Inner Station as ”the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience” (21). The purpose of my essay is to explore the dark unknown territory of Heart of Darkness in a psychological sense, in Jungian terms as a process of individuation having for its primary goal self-awareness. Focusing on Marlow, this essay will consequently analyse the journey of individuation as a descent into what could be considered the mythic underworld, or, using the Jungian concepts, the exploration of the personal and the collective unconscious, and Marlow’s meeting with the archetypal manifestations of his shadow and anima. It is in other words the metaphorical dimension of the African continent, representing an unknown world and a symbolic lost continent within, that is the focus of interest. In this sense the journey gives Marlow the opportunity to discover a lost aspect of the Self, his invisible and unconscious parts, witnessed through his process of individuation. Moreover, the landscape of Heart of Darkness, whether inner or outer, through which Marlow travels, seems compatible with the place of the collective unconscious as it is described by Jung. Also Marlow’s observation of time seeming to move backwards as he travels deeper and deeper into the continent as well as the strong sense of the symbolic give further support to a Jungian analysis. The essay also investigates a parallel that relates to the mythological phenomenon of the underworld journey and makes a comparison with the symbols of transcendence that represent man’s striving to attain his highest goal which Jung argues is ”the full realization of the potential of his individual Self”. This mythopoetic view also reveal analogies with other literature – the journey through darkness and the dream theme for instance – and thus it stands out more clearly that Heart of Darkness has a deeper meaning that goes beyond the mere literal one. On his journey, interpreted as a descent into the collective unconscious, Marlow is confronted with the archetypal images of the shadow and the anima as being part of his process of individuation. Kurtz, who turns out to be an image or symbol of accumulated evil, could be seen both as the personal shadow of Marlow and the societal shadow of European imperialism representing the cruelty of the white man’s exploitation and lust for power The second stage of the process of individuation is dominated by the anima, the personification of the feminine aspects of the male psyche. In the novel, the knitting women, the African mistress and the Intended could all be regarded as different aspects of the archetypal image of the anima. In conclusion, it seems as if Marlow gradually becomes aware of Kurtz as his shadow. It is possible then to observe, from a Jungian point of view, a part of his process of individuation. On his journey towards a centre he obviously has managed to realize and integrate the shadow aspect of his personality. However, his lie and attitude towards women in general and the Intended in particular reveals that his feminine aspect – the anima – still remains split off, to a great extent. Still, the different embodiments of his female elements are strongly influential opening doors into his unconscious as well as offering balance between opposing forces traditionally connected with masculinity and femininity. Consequently, when ending his tale, Marlow is still on his way towards individuation, self-realization and enlightenment. The dark wilderness of the African continent as well as the moral darkness of civilization, in this essay seen as analogous with the dark, unknown region of the unconscious, offer only flickers of enlightenment. Or as Marlow remarks: ”We live in the flicker – may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling!” (19).

Abstract [en]

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a narrative told by Charlie Marlow reflecting back upon a journey he has undertaken up a river into the interior of Africa. The novel begins at anchor near London, on the Thames, as Marlow, the first narrator, informs his fellow shipmates of his earlier experiences while waiting ”for the turn of the tide” (15). Like many of Conrad’s other literary works Heart of Darkness to a great extent deals with inner motives and desires that only can be revealed in strange lands and dark places. This is one of the reasons why the novel can be regarded as an outer physical as well as an inner psychological journey in which Marlow explores both the material and the psychical reality. That this journey can be understood not only on a geographical level but on a deeper level as well, is for example explained by Marlow’s description of the Inner Station as ”the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience” (21). The purpose of my essay is to explore the dark unknown territory of Heart of Darkness in a psychological sense, in Jungian terms as a process of individuation having for its primary goal self-awareness. Focusing on Marlow, this essay will consequently analyse the journey of individuation as a descent into what could be considered the mythic underworld, or, using the Jungian concepts, the exploration of the personal and the collective unconscious, and Marlow’s meeting with the archetypal manifestations of his shadow and anima. It is in other words the metaphorical dimension of the African continent, representing an unknown world and a symbolic lost continent within, that is the focus of interest. In this sense the journey gives Marlow the opportunity to discover a lost aspect of the Self, his invisible and unconscious parts, witnessed through his process of individuation. Moreover, the landscape of Heart of Darkness, whether inner or outer, through which Marlow travels, seems compatible with the place of the collective unconscious as it is described by Jung. Also Marlow’s observation of time seeming to move backwards as he travels deeper and deeper into the continent as well as the strong sense of the symbolic give further support to a Jungian analysis. The essay also investigates a parallel that relates to the mythological phenomenon of the underworld journey and makes a comparison with the symbols of transcendence that represent man’s striving to attain his highest goal which Jung argues is ”the full realization of the potential of his individual Self”. This mythopoetic view also reveal analogies with other literature – the journey through darkness and the dream theme for instance – and thus it stands out more clearly that Heart of Darkness has a deeper meaning that goes beyond the mere literal one. On his journey, interpreted as a descent into the collective unconscious, Marlow is confronted with the archetypal images of the shadow and the anima as being part of his process of individuation. Kurtz, who turns out to be an image or symbol of accumulated evil, could be seen both as the personal shadow of Marlow and the societal shadow of European imperialism representing the cruelty of the white man’s exploitation and lust for power. The second stage of the process of individuation is dominated by the anima, the personification of the feminine aspects of the male psyche. In the novel, the knitting women, the African mistress and the Intended could all be regarded as different aspects of the archetypal image of the anima. In conclusion, it seems as if Marlow gradually becomes aware of Kurtz as his shadow. It is possible then to observe, from a Jungian point of view, a part of his process of individuation. On his journey towards a centre he obviously has managed to realize and integrate the shadow aspect of his personality. However, his lie and attitude towards women in general and the Intended in particular reveals that his feminine aspect – the anima – still remains split off, to a great extent. Still, the different embodiments of his female elements are strongly influential opening doors into his unconscious as well as offering balance between opposing forces traditionally connected with masculinity and femininity. Consequently, when ending his tale, Marlow is still on his way towards individuation, self-realization and enlightenment. The dark wilderness of the African continent as well as the moral darkness of civilization, in this essay seen as analogous with the dark, unknown region of the unconscious, offer only flickers of enlightenment. Or as Marlow remarks: ”We live in the flicker – may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling!” (19).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2000. , 30 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53936Local ID: ENG D-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53936DiVA: diva2:1102496
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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