Similarity in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim Essay

Similarity in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim Many times, after a successful novel, an author will publish another story very similar to the praised one. Joseph Conrad followed in suit with the previous statement. After the publication of Heart of Darkness in 1899, Lord Jim was released in 1900. However, according to majority of his critics, Conrad’s Lord Jim arguably outdoes Heart of Darkness to be named his best work. Few realize, though, that Lord Jim was actually started before Heart of Darkness and dropped until after the completion of it (Galens, Novels for Students 193).

Joseph Conrad uses a consistent style throughout the writing of Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim to display similar central points. The uniform parts of style include setting, narration, and central characters. Compliments of the style similarities, the role of women, the gathered theme of white heroism among the natives, and the issues of loss and rejection confirm the likeness of the two novels. As Conrad spent over twenty years on the sea, it is no surprise that both of these novels take place among the waters. More specifically, Heart of Darkness begins along the Thames River in London.

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The travels include a round trip from the Thames to the Congo, ending again in Europe (Telgen 98). Conrad uses legitimate and real places to portray the African area in the 1890s. But, in Lord Jim, the ship called the Patna and the island of Patusan are both fictional. He creates the ship and island with the same jungle like descriptions to serve as the main setting of Lord Jim. Perhaps Conrad did not feel that he portrayed what he truly wanted to show in Heart of Darkness because he had to stick with some historical truths about Africa. He then creates his own places with his own rules and writes Lord Jim.

If this is true, the use of the same narrator named Marlow in both novels is logical. In both novels, the structure of the narrator is virtually set up the same; they are really a story within another story, bouncing back and forth between the first and third person point of views. For the majority of both novels, Marlow is aboard a ship telling the passengers a story about a powerful man who makes a costly error while abroad foreign places. In Heart of Darkness, the third person narrator comments on the life of Marlow and only plays a small role in the book. This third person is never named, most likely because his role is not major.

Lord Jim is set up in a similar manner: Marlow serves as the main storyteller in the first person point of view and is preceded by an unknown third person who gives an account of Jim’s life in the novel’s first few chapters (Galens, Novels for Students 180). Although the two novels do not match up page for page with the differing point of views, the similar use of the narrator is clear. Conrad’s choice of using Marlow for both novels is wise. He knew that Marlow was a success in Heart of Darkness, so by using his creative skills and Marlow, he created a masterpiece in Lord Jim.

Marlow is an old sea captain throughout multiple pieces of Conrad’s work and always serves as the narrator. Conrad proves that Marlow is still human by showing his anger and dislike at each of the main characters throughout the novels. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow becomes furious when he discovers that Kurtz is believed to be dead before his ship arrives at the island. Marlow also assumes that Jim is not regretful of his incident and has an immediate dislike towards him, but when he gets to know Jim, Marlow changes his mind in Lord Jim.

In being human, the sea captain believes that he sees and knows it all, so it is not surprising that he tells the stories of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and Jim in Lord Jim. The central characters in each of the novels are also very similar. Both Kurtz and Jim serve as explorers upon their ships in their respective novels. Even though the circumstances were different in the two stories, unfortunate events landed each of them into the crowd of native inhabitants in the land they were to explore.

In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz finds himself a spot at the top of the white trading company for the intense amounts of ivory he brings into the company’s possession. However, in getting there, the circumstances have caused him to lose all happiness that he built up at home, including his intended wife and future plans. Jim, on the other hand, has many misfortunate events prior to his surge of power. He failed as a naval officer because he abandoned a full ship, and the incident became known as “Panta Incident” (Galens, Novels for Students 184). This single famous incident causes Jim to shy away from every other seaman job he attempts.

Finally, Lord Jim escapes his incident in Patusan fitting into the native tribe. Conrad seems to display the two men in opposition. For example, Kurtz’s earlier years held a lot of promise for a prosperous life through his family and marriage setup as well as through his career possibilities. However, in his final days, Kurtz appeared to be dwelling on what his life would have been like had he not left his home to go to the Congo. In contrast, Jim starts out at the bottom of the totem pole; he messed up his chosen career through the “Panta Incident” and needs to find a way back up to the top.

By the novel’s close, Jim redeemed himself by proving he could be a leader by his reigning of the natives in Patusan. The two men worked their way up with the natives until each of them held a very high power among the natives at their designated locations, living their lives just like the natives. The strength that these men show in the stories is illustrated in two different ways. Kurtz is depicted as being mentally strong and highly intelligent. In Heart of Darkness, the manager states “I would be desolated if anything should happen to Mr. Kurtz before we came up,” proving that his intelligence to the company was extremely valuable (48).

Lord Jim opens with the lines He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and fixed from under stare which made you think of a charging bull. His voice was deep, loud, and his manner displayed a kind of dogged self-assertion which had nothing aggressive in it. (1) The above quotation precisely shows that Conrad is aiming to display the physical strength of Jim. The contrasting description of strength between the two central characters is another key used by Conrad to separate Kurtz and Jim from being identical characters in both novels.

Whether metal or physical, Conrad allows the two men to use their unique advantages to find their way into the native groups. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz develops a relationship with the native’s ruling lady, helping him to move up their totem pole. Jim becomes the eventual leader of the mulatto natives on the Patusan Island by marrying the elder ruler’s sister. Conrad, perhaps not even realizing the style patterns in Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim himself, uses very similar writing technique in both novels.

Through the use of similar setting, narration, and central characters, Conrad enables himself to draw parallels with key symbols, issues, and themes in the two novels. Native women take on large roles in the central characters lives and prove to be symbols. Both Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim also contain evidence of Conrad’s beliefs on white man’s power over the other races. Several similar trust battles occur among characters as well. Firstly, the native women play key roles in Conrad’s novels. Both men have intimate relationships with native women.

It is obvious that Kurtz is having relations with the native woman who seems to hold some extreme importance to her tribe in the Congo. Achebe points out that Conrad spends an entire page of the novel lavishing over the native woman, proving that she is a mistress of Kurtz (255). Although this woman is never named, she shows how easily men can be swayed by womanly figures. The prime example of this is that Kurtz has a significant other at home, known as the Intended, and although Conrad does not make it clear of Kurtz’s commitment to her, he does openly display that Kurtz seems to be entirely into the native lady.

Jim ends up marrying his native lover, Jewel, in Lord Jim. Jewel is easily persuaded by Jim’s statements and actions, showing the woman’s weakness for love, but, at the same time, she shows her power over her husband with her protective manners. Although Jim does not appear to have any run-ins with any white women in Lord Jim, Kurtz does have a relationship with the Intended in Heart of Darkness. Although she is never given a true name, the Intended is known to be Kurtz’s fiance and they will be married upon his return.

Basically, through the Intended, Conrad depicts the cruelty of men towards women. The women fall completely in love with the men and put everything into the relationship, especially long distance relationships. When Kurtz leaves his Intended for the Congo, she trusts the he will return to her in time and then they can be married and lead a happy life. However, Conrad denies this thought with the plotline that illustrates Kurtz with the native woman. At the conclusion of Heart of Darkness, Conrad shows that he looks down upon the female population through Marlow’s confrontation with the Intended.

Kurtz did not return to his homeland from the African Congo due to death from illness, but he seemed to forget about his prior engagements at home. Marlow lies to the Intended when she questions him about Kurtz’s dying words, encouraging the Intended that she was on Kurtz’s mind upon his death. In this incident, Conrad is showing the emotional weakness of females through the Intended’s pitiful grieving. He also feels as if, because of her current distressed state, she cannot handle the truth about Kurtz’s death and true last words.

Conrad is on the verge of being sexist because he proves through Marlow’s actions that he does not believe that women can face the harshness of reality due to their underlying emotional weakness they cannot handle. Conrad chooses to push his case even further than just the man’s power over the woman; he suggests that white men are of a higher order than the natives. He proves this essentially throughout Heart of Darkness, yet he still shows Jim above and beyond the natives in Lord Jim. Now, not only do critics look at Conrad as an antifeminist, but they also can title him as being racist.

Conrad is not as verbal with the presence of racism in Lord Jim; however, in certain instances throughout the novel, Conrad puts the white men superior to the colored natives. For example, Jim becomes the leader of the Patusan tribe and he is the white man among the natives. White men usually did not fit in so easily with the native tribes, but Jim is not wanted among the white men either. Conrad acknowledges the inferiority complex that is naturally built up among the white and the natives. Immediately, the natives treat Jim with the utmost amount of respect and even call him “Tuan Jim”, meaning Lord Jim (Galens, Novels for Students 185).

Conrad also proves this inferiority by making Jim a hero among the natives for plotting a successful attack upon a fellow powerful tribe. More importantly, Conrad still discovers a way to still let the white men shine over Jim and his native tribe. When Brown and his white crew arrive, the natives believe that they should be killed. Yet, Jim, knowing the advancements in technology and intelligence that these white men have, advises that, without fighting, the white men should pass through the tribe. Contrary to Conrad’s slight display of racism in Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness contains ample evidence of Conrad’s racist feelings.

Most bluntly, characters like Marlow and Kurtz use very derogatory names when referring to the native Africans. Conrad calls the natives names such as “niggers,” “savages,” “criminals,” “creatures,” and “cannibals. ” The white men march into the African colonies with the imperialistic attitude that they can go into any inhabited country and colonize it while they pillage and alter it to their liking (Telgen 97). For a short while at the start of the novel, Marlow notes the natural strength of the African natives. However, this burst is short-lived and the narrator begins to see the natives like all the other white men.

The white see the colored men and women as people who starve, steal, and murder; are fearless of any form of punishment; and are a much minor race then themselves. Conrad digs at the African natives even deeper when he quotes their speech. The famous quote from the manager’s boy, “Mistah Kurtz- he dead,” proves this attack on the speech of the natives. Achebe declares that the phrasing “insolent black head in the doorway” and the broken English spoken by the native boy upon the arrival at Kurtz’s death proves this racist tone of Conrad (254).

Conrad also confirms the critics’ statements through Kurtz’s involvement with the “International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. ” From the group’s name, the reader can decipher that the group is planning to attack the rituals of the native savages. Kurtz, one of the most powerful men in the trading company, is composing a treatise for this group compiled of all his observations of the natives. Kurtz notes that the native Africans seem to worship him as if he is a supernatural being. The African natives worship Kurtz just like Jim is treated as a lord in Lord Jim.

At this stage, the native inhabitants of the nonwhite countries do not have the background education to realize that the white men are evil and will ruin their way of life. Conrad goes along with the current day history and displays two different white men as predominant leaders among two native colored tribes. He also uses many racial slurs and cruel comments to depict the natives. Whether Conrad himself is truly racist or not, he writes both novels, especially Heart of Darkness, with a racist tone. Perhaps Conrad finds himself feeling so harshly towards others because of his own personal problems.

He experienced so many cases of loss and rejection that he had a low self-confidence. These stages of mistrust and loss lead to Conrad’s unique writing style. For instance, Conrad and his family dealt with a lot of suffering that led up to the loss of both of his parents when he was very young (Galens, Novels for Students 180). In Lord Jim, Jim resembles Conrad himself in many instances. First, Jim goes through a very rough time with rejection from his naval job for abandoning the ship. At this stage, Conrad is suffering his family’s exile from their home.

After some time, both men begin traveling the coast, making trips to various to newly discovered countries. Following one of the travels, Jim decides to station himself there permanently, and he gives himself the opportunity for happiness. He marries and climbs his way back up the ladder by gaining an honored position about the native tribe of Patusan. Conrad settles down to form a family with his wife and realizes that writing is the passion that will take him somewhere in life. Although Conrad himself could not pick up on this resemblance at the time, both men loose their lives rather unexpectedly.

Jim is murdered by the white men he allows to pass through the village, and Conrad succumbs to a heart attack. The author Conrad and his central character Jim truly live the same pattern of the rollercoaster of life that is full of ups and downs (Merriman 2). Heart of Darkness compares with Lord Jim in several manners. Conrad uses a very similar style technique throughout both of the novels. The use of similar settings, both on the islands where the white men are just beginning to discover and among the seas, is evident. Conrad also uses the same set of narration in both novels.

The seaman Marlow tells the majority of both stories in the first person outlook while a unanimous third person narrator sets up the plot at the beginning of both books. The central characters of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and Jim in Lord Jim are quite comparable to each other through their power among the natives, strength, and situational responses. By tying together the styles of Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, many of the same key symbols and issues appeared. Women, especially the native women, played symbolic parts in each of the novels. The power of the white men over the natives is especially crucial with the critics.

Critics bash Conrad to this day for his use of racism, especially in Heart of Darkness, shown within his name choices and feeling of superiority over the natives. Finally, Conrad shows himself through the central character of Jim, proving how loneliness and suffering has affected his life. As quoted by Conrad, “You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends. ” In other words, do not consider only what the critics have written, but recollect to the passages of his fans also. Conrad has gifted the literary world with two spectacularly similar novels in Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim and should be praised for his contributions.

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