"It Is Impossible That All This Should Be Lost": Victorian Narrative in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Issue: Vol 3, No 1: Special Bulletin
Pages: 41-50
Author(s): Kayla Walker Edin (Southern Methodist University)
Citation: http://victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/19

Abstract

Critics debate the designation of Joseph Conrad's 1902 novella Heart of Darkness as either "Victorian" or "Modern." The novella's protagonist embodies Victorian notions of British imperialism, whilst Conrad's experimental style and content pre-figure modernist sensibilities. I suggest that the final scene of the novella illuminates Conrad's simultaneous embodiment and interrogation of Victorian narrative convention. Kurtz's fiancée shows an astonishing degree of agency in constructing a master narrative apart from the tale that Marlow tells his masculine audience. Such a close-up view of the construction of this narrative exposes the frailty of narratives in general and the dependence of "truth" upon prescribed gender roles. This article discusses how Conrad's tale of gender and period crossings centres around the attempts of Marlow and Modernism to leave behind feminine and Victorian "delusions." These attempts inevitably fail because such delusions are themselves essential to masculine and Modern self-invention.



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