Character Growth in Heart of Darkness

This paper analyzes the portrayal of characters in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,

Examines the characters in the novel, in particular focusing on the intellectual, moral, emotional and psychological exploration of the novel.. The paper identifies characters who grow and those who don’t, and the thematic effect of these oppositions throughout the novella. Characters analyzed include the “frame” narrator, Marlow, the Accountant, the Brickmaker, the pilgrims and Kurtz.
“Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness explores the intellectual, emotional and moral growth of characters throughout the novella. This character growth has been a recurring theme in literature, with the poet William Blake, among many others, exploring theories of the movement between innocence to experience. Although Conrad does not strictly address character growth in this manner, characters who do and do not undergo psychological growth are portrayed quite differently. Those who undergo these psychological changes are portrayed favorably, that is Marlow, the frame narrator, and Kurtz. These characters throughout the novel undergo significant change, for some it is gradual (Marlow), but for others such as Kurtz, this growth or realization occurs rapidly, and almost too late. Whilst European colonialists characters who do not grow, or remain at the stagnant psychological level – are used to represent the anti-colonialism theme to the readers. Conrad utilizes characters, and their psychological growth (or lack of growth) to distance himself from the narrative and endorse or criticize many themes which would be seen as revolutionary in the context of its publication. A large gap is then depicted between the characters who grow, portrayed as enlightened beings, and the pilgrims and European colonialists, who are seen in a colonial point of view as perfect examples of good, however portrayed by Conrad as stagnant, Hollow men, whose aims and ideals are criticized.”