2014 | 23/1 | 73-82
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Heart of Darkness: Piercing the Silence

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‘Dead silence’ can resonate with more meaning than the spoken word, the absence of oral discourse signaling the presence of an unsettling subject, as Edward Said commented in Culture and Imperialism. Heart of Darkness pierces this silence through its assessment of Victorian society’s corrosive capitalist core. The novella’s symbolism and collapse of binaries anticipates modernism, and these techniques allow Conrad to censure white men, both those with real and petty power; and white women, who are depicted as colonialism’s passive or active enablers. This portrayal ultimately condemns the characters’ brutality even as it expresses cynicism about humanity’s potential for compassion.
  • University of Virginia
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