Heart of Darkness and “Hollow Men”
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, and “Hollow Men,” by T.S. Eliot have several comparative themes, though each author has an entirely separate way of conveying them. Each work displays a darkened and dismal mood, separation, and obscurity, which are depicted through different characters and environments. The authors both have a disdain for the hierarchy in society, which they cannot escape, and the destructive consequences that occur because of a higher authority’s demands. And, both authors portray characters who are observant, though one observes the tactile, and the other looks deeper into the spirituality of himself and others.
Conrad and Eliot make darkness, death, impending doom, and separation the main focus in these two pieces of work. On page one of Heart of Darkness, Conrad uses descriptions like “haze, dark, mournful, brooding, and gloom” to set the general scene and mood for the continuum of the novel. Eliot sets up a similar scene by using “death” several times throughout the poem (line 14), and parallels life with “fading” or “dying stars” (line 28, 44, and 54). In lines 39-44 Eliot even goes so far as to give a morbid depiction of a graveyard,
By calling it this he is implying that there is imminent danger in the situation that he is forced to enter. Another major theme of both works involves the journey, in which, each protagonist is on, and the purpose of that journey. This passage can be seen as an interpretation of the emotions of the narrator and the people around him; the want, the violence, the force, the struggle for existence, human nature, and mental descent all linger in the darkness of human souls. Marlow says that "instead of going to the center of a continent"he feels he is going into the center of the earth" (10). Eliot"tms work gives the reader a picture of the human soul in trying circumstances, while Conrad shows a sort of superficiality through Marlow and the situations he faces. The reader can take away a better sense of themselves after reading these works and placing themselves in the narrator"tms position. Conrad continues to use such descriptions through Marlow to delineate the feeling of darkness within himself. In lines 1-7 Eliot uses evasive metaphors like,We are hollow menWe are the stuffed men Headpiece filled with straw. Comparatively, in Heart of Darkness Marlow is sent into a questionable situation by British who are trying to colonize the Congo. Although the setting is a huge part of depicting the mood, the characters and their personalities cannot be forgotten; their personalities also convey the theme of darkness. The authors use separation to give the reader a deeper sense of darkness, which anyone could relate to, and associate with loneliness. This is the dead land This is the cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man"tms hand Under the twinkle of a fading star. This is what Marlow experiences on his journey to the Congo; trying circumstances directly affect the emotions of both characters. While Marlow is in the waiting room he feels "slightly uneasy," and as if there is "something ominous in the atmosphere" (8).