This thesis is an attempt to discuss a range of interpretations of Joseph Conrad s short novel Heart of Darkness by linking them to the complex meaning of two of the text s main metaphors, light and darkness . Race is the thematic and ideological fulcrum of this novel s narrative discourse, informing and in large part determining how both light and darkness are interpreted by readers of different races and dissimilar cultures. It therefore comes as no surprise to observe opposition to the novel from African readers and critics (notably the distinguished Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe) and agreement with Conrad s views expressed by European readers. Subjecting this ongoing critical controversy to discussion, this thesis stresses the need to historicize in order to come to terms with the concepts of race and racism.
Dissenting from the views of many critics, this thesis argues that Africa is not the heart of darkness in Heart of Darkness. Rather, darkness is a quality of human mind and a consequence of human action and these qualities and actions are associated with Europeans activities in the Congo. Heart of Darkness does not give definite answers; the novel denies present truths by constantly pointing forward. Deconstructing the universal justification of European truths, the novel also questions the whole process of truth making. The issue of imperialism is one main reason why Heart of Darkness both reconstructs and deconstructs commonly accepted truths. Imperialism is also one of the novel s most important themes. I n order to effectively discuss the success (light) in terms of achieved results for Europe in the ivory fields and the exploitation (darkness) of the natives that accompanied imperialism as a matter of course, the thesis links Conrad s fictional presentation of imperialism to the conduct of European ivory hunters (especially Kurtz) in the Congo.