This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Heart of Darkness

The method Conrad uses to deploy his elegant narrative is essential to understand the relationship between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa. In order to grasp Marlow's character and opinions, it is important to understand one important factor about Marlow himself. Marlow is a man who is accepted in an ambiguous haze; his ability to fit into more than one level of society is necessary to relate the story and make the reader better understand the true meaning of “Heart of Darkness”.

Throughout Heart of Darkness, the functionality of “things” being in their place is very important. The constraints placed on class mobility throughout the story make it vital for Marlow to be socially transparent. His ability to float between classes is his most powerful narrative tool. This quality is also essential for Marlow to relate Kurtz with both Africa and Europe. Instead of telling the story from one perspective, Marlow's story embodies the perspective of all the different characters (However, Marlow seems to be searching for the reason behind many of these characters motivations for being in Africa, and he seems to fall short of completely pinpointing underlying motives). Through the description of these characters we can begin to see the haunting relationship they all possess. The accountant, General manager, Brick-maker, and the managers uncle all possess the bureaucratic persona that relate directly to the Belgian company. Kurtz on the other hand is Europe's finest. Skilled in many different forms of intellectual abilities, he is a man who is sure to rise up the ranks of the bureaucratic ladder. Unlike the other bureaucrats, Kurtz has a mission and a clear path to fame and glory back in Europe. This quality alone sets him above the lesser men who hold imperialism as a helpful and noble cause. It is worth noting the way Marlow describes several of the less important characters. When Marlow encounters the brick maker, he makes the observation that very few bricks seem to be being made. Marlow then cites the brick makers lack of progress for want of materials. This example found in a minor character describes the presence of many of the more ambitious characters such as the pilgrims. Very few men who flocked to the heart of Africa know little more about their motives than Marlow himself. One could also argue that Marlow is uncertain of his own motivations for venturing to Africa. The depiction of the “colonialist” is full of veiled morals and uncertain ideals. They know little about themselves and seem to be wading chest deep in a dark haze that is sure to send them back broken men (if at all!). The “hollow” men are simply an extension of the imperialist hand that extends from above. In Conrad's Congo there are malignant reactions for apparent benign causes. It is also filled with tedious task who's sole purpose is to keep the horrors hidden beneath a facade of humanitarian ideals. The separation of ideals and motives are more important in regards to the comparison between the general manager and Kurtz. While Kurtz is a man who possesses a refined and graceful intellect, the General Manager possesses little quality besides the ability to make his listener feel uneasy. Combined with his ability to evade disease, the general manager is the perfect parasite to feed on the horrors of imperialism. The “darkness” unknowingly spread to Africa within the hearts of the Europeans.


The idea of restrain is a redundant theme that is vital to the success of Marlow's journey and return (the mere fact he returned merits success). It is due to the other characters lack of restraint that alludes to their destruction. The helmsman, pilgrims, the managers uncle, and Kurtz himself all exercise a devout lack of restraint throughout the journey. It is in the face of adversity and terror that restraint lends its greatest fortitude and can be the balance that one needs in order to keep is head in times of madness. Sadly, this was not a trait that the talented Kurtz possessed. He was the ruin of an age, the beacon that was covered up by a dark haze never to be seen again, only his memory will remain and it will remain not as a success but as a warning for overreaching individuals.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Heart of Darkness

Marlow and Kurtz, Europe, and Africa
In The Heart of Darkness Marlow tells the story of his journey to Africa down the Congo River. As he relates his story to his fellow shipmates, the reader is presented with his many ideas on the characters, ideas, and settings. Marlow really works to establish a relationship between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa.
In the tale, Kurtz is the embodiment of European ideals. When describing Kurtz and how his mother is half-English and his father was half-French, he says, “All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz…” He is well-educated and can write with “unbounded power of eloquence.” The brick-maker says, “He is a prodigy. He is an emissary of pity, and science, and devil knows what else.” Marlow says that Kurtz is a member of the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, and he says that this is the reason that Kurtz writes his convincing pamphlet. He is a model of progress, being successful both with the natives and with collecting ivory. As Marlow comes closer to him, however, he learns the dark truth about Kurtz and his “progress.”
Marlow collectively portrays Europe in the tale. He often portrays it negatively, such as in the beginning when he says of the west, only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches became more somber every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun.” In the beginning, he also compares Europe to Africa. He says that Europe was once like Africa until the Romans were “man enough to face the darkness.” He also adds that the people of the company, however, were not colonists but conquerors urged on by what he calls “the squeeze.” He says of them, “they grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. Another way Marlow describes Europe is as a white sepulcher, like Jesus said of the Pharisees, outwardly beautiful, but inwardly full of dead men’s bones. After his journey up the Congo, he returns to the white sepulcher, and does not feel that he fits in with the rest of society any longer.
The third thing that Marlow works to establish in the tale is the African setting. He says that as a child he wished to go to the unnamed places on the map. One of those was Africa, and he says of it now, “It had become a place of darkness.” He says that it is the Congo River, winding its way into Africa like a snake that draws him. He says, “The snake charmed me.” This story is comparative to that of Adam and Eve, when Eve was tempted by the serpent. As Marlow travels, he realizes how much darkness there is in the jungle and in the hearts of men. He discovers Kurtz and the dark truth when he reaches the Inner Station.
As Marlow continues on his journey, he learns a great deal not only about Africa but also about the human condition. He understands that though Kurtz has went too far, he is in many ways like or “kin to” Kurtz. He realizes how dark men’s hearts can be, and the problems with what was called the progress of the day. Through all of this, Marlow finally comes to understand why Kurtz’s last words were, “the horror, the horror!”
~Deniese Willard

Kurtz, Europe, and Africa

When reading through Heart of Darkness, two statements stuck out. When referring to Kurtz’s parents, Marlow says “All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.” Marlow also says, referring to Kurtz, “Everything belonged to him but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.” In a way these two statements sum up Marlow’s view of the connection between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa. Marlow is the creation of Europe. He is their messenger, their representative. More than that, he is their collector. He came to Europe with “his generous mind…his noble heart” and the righteousness of the European Idea: that Europeans were in Africa to bring civilization to the natives. They are the great helping the weak. Kurtz says in his pamphlet “we approach them with the might of a deity.” Kurtz only sees all the possessions he has gained in Africa, and in that way he is blind. He does not see that Africa, with its darkness, had taken possession of him. In this way all of Europe is blind. They do not see the power of the darkness, of this ancient land. Marlow says “the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.” The Europeans are there to concur something that is bigger than them, something they cannot even truly comprehend. Africa is the true great power. But, as I said, Europe cannot see this, and so they are willing to sacrifice Kurtz – its creation, who was once such a wonderful man - for its “idea”- for money, for trade, for progress.

The significance of Kurtz

In Josef Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness" we are presented with an ironic tale of one man's journey into the interior of Africa and the corruption he discovers there.
Our central character Marlow is an experienced seaman with a driving force of intrepidness rather than just a man seeking profit. We are told the story by one of Marlow's fellow seaman as it was told to him by Marlow as they waited on the tide in the Thames river. This is were we receive our first hint of irony in the way Marlow describes the western habit of robbing natives of different lands and cultures of their freedom and resources under the guise of enlightenment. As Marlow continues the yarn he uses vivid imagery to convey the feeling of death and corruption at the operation's head quarters in London. This foreshadowing is central to the idea of the story. When Marlow arrives in Africa he notices first the absurdity and cruelty as he watches a French ship firing cannons into the continent supposedly at the "enemies" which are the natives. These kind of incidences occur often as he describes the cruelty with which the Africans are treated. The chain-gang, the grove of death and etc. are all examples by which this message of contradiction and cruelty are conveyed to the reader. Marlow is intrigued by a man named Kurtz who resides in the interior and is referred to as the companies top collection agent of ivory. There are many mixed emotions about Kurtz, some men fear him, some are jealous of him,and yet others admire him. Yet no-one can deny his effectiveness at acquiring ivory and this leads Marlow to believe him to be a truly remarkable man. As the story continues we realize that the steamboat "rescue" of Kurtz was sabotaged and as Marlow waits on his steamer to be repaired he describes the management and their attitudes and his disdain for both. When Marlow finally reaches Kurtz the realization of the story all comes together. Kurtz represents the west or Europe and its presence in Africa. In an attempt to set an example Kurtz has become the embodiment of colonization and all the ills that come along with it. His heart has become so dark from the corruption, murder, theft, and terrible mistreatment of the natives. These are the effects of the "big squeeze" our author refers to when describing colonization and all the ills that come along with it. In the story Kurtz represents all the things that were admired by western civilization: Intrepidness, Boldness, Conviction, Eloquence, Tenacity. All of these attributes were corrupted and Kurtz became a brutal monster or a manifestation of all the ills caused by this false enlightenment which was not driven by ideals only pure greed or the heart of darkness. Kurtz represented what the colonizers had all become, just glorified plunderers and pirates. These were the effects on a mans soul when it is driven by such a contradiction as this false enlightenment.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Conrad: Heart of Darkness

In Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," Marlow discovers that Europe, Africa, and Kurtz all relate to each other in some way. Through Conrad's novella, we learn about Kurtz through the eyes of Marlow and that he represents all of Europe. It states in this novella that "All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz." This quote was implying that because Kurtz's mother was French and his father was English, many different parts of Europe contributed to his making. Marlow notices this unique aspect of Kurtz's heritage and is able to conclude that Kurtz, Europe, and Africa are all related. Africa is related to Kurtz and his European upbringing in that fact that Kurtz is in Africa working for the Company to make money. Kurtz was the Company's only hope for making money in Africa. The slaves looked at Kurtz like he was a God-like figure and were all afraid of him because he would either kill them or enslave them if they did not agree to work for the Company. While Kurtz was working for the Company, Europe believed that the Company was there to enlighten the natives and teach them about civilization; however, that was not the case at all. Kurtz and the company use the slaves to their advantage to make money. Between the harsh and unjust treatment of the "criminals" and the wrong impression Europe is under, Kurtz in the end becomes exactly what the company represented. He realizes this as he is dying when he looks out the window in disgust at everything that is going on. There is also a reference to this in the novella on page 84 when Kurtz asks Marlow to "close the shutters." This is implying that Kurtz does not want to see the "horror" outside as he realizes what he has become.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

How does Marlow understand the relation between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa? In Marlow’s point of view, “all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.” But he also says referring to Kurtz, “I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.” I think these two quotes are important because they describe exactly what Marlow thinks of Kurtz, no matter how many times he is convinced otherwise or disillusioned into believing something else.

Marlow points out that “all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,” in the literal sense that his parents were of Europe but different countries. The phrase, “the making of” sounds like the description of an object, not a human being. Similar to the way that Marlow describes the Africans he sees slaving over the company’s work. To sum up my thoughts, this quote describes Kurtz like an object that Europe created. So Kurtz is Europe’s creation, who is sent or chooses to go to Africa to pursue this business of harvesting ivory. He is praised by all in the company mainly because it’s a business and Kurtz is a good business man, he gets the job done. The company’s goal is not to enlighten Africa, as some characters claim, but to make money. And Kurtz is the ultimate money maker; he does whatever it takes to get the job done. The company keeps what Kurtz does quiet because maybe they don’t know exactly how he is getting all the ivory and also because they are scared of him. They don’t want to upset him or anything because then he could start working for himself instead of them. Kurtz, in a sense, is worse than the natives. The company could control the natives, but not Kurtz. I mean, he establishes himself as a godlike figure to the natives in and around the Inner Station. He is worshipped even by the Russian, who should know better because he is “civilized.” He even says that we can’t judge Kurtz as “an ordinary man.” He, like the natives, was infatuated with Kurtz.

Another interesting quote is “I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.” Marlow is referring to Kurtz in this quote. I think that if we dissect this, we find deep meaning behind it as to what Marlow thinks of Kurtz. Kurtz is the man lying at the bottom of this cliff. In this story, there are many times when Marlow is in Africa and cliffs are part of the scenery. So I think that we can say that Kurtz is at the bottom of an African cliff. Not only is he down there, but he is lying, not standing. This could mean that he is tired or even shamed. A worn-out Kurtz is lying at the bottom of this African cliff where there is no sun. Sun, I think in this context, refers to the on going metaphor of dark and light in this novella. No sunlight means darkness; there is darkness at the bottom of this cliff where Kurtz is lying. Kurtz is part of darkness, you could say. This darkness represents Africa and all the stereotypes that come along with it like savagery and brutality. How could Europe produce something so “dark” when it is civilized? I think this is a major point in this novella written by Joseph Conrad, but through the eyes of Charlie Marlow.

-Mihee Jones

Kurtz, Europe, and Africa

I feel that Marlow understands the relation between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa differently in the beginning of his journey than he does towards the end of his journey to bring Kurtz back home.

In the beginning Kurtz is referred to as a European knight; A “knight errant”. A knight errant is a figure in medieval romantic literature that would wander the land in search of conquests/adventures for example, Don Quixote. Don Quixote wandered the land in search of adventures to prove his chivalry. Although he was not actually doing that his intentions were good. In the beginning Kurtz represents this knight, to Marlow, that is so eloquent and good that is going to go through Africa and make it better; go through and “enlighten” the Africans to the European/christian way. In a sense Kurtz represents Europe, or at least how others view Kurtz. Europeans were to enlighten the world. They were to go to these “shaded” areas on the map and teach them “the way,” their way.

In the end Marlow sees that Kurtz did go through Africa and show them his way. Kurtz represents Europe’s spreading through unconquered areas wreaking havoc on all they touch. They begin with good intentions or appear to have good intentions to others but in the end they are hurting who they touch. But, as Marlow has a good impression of kurtz before he meets the man, the Europeans at home think that the Europeans in Africa are teaching the africans and helping them make their country better, they believe they are “bringing light to the country” when in all reality they are putting them in bondage. The Europeans are calling the Africans criminals and chaining them up and making them do useless work and Kurtz takes it further by calling them rebels, cutting their heads off, and putting the heads on posts for all to see.

I think Marlow feels that both Europe and Africa are “in the dark” for different reasons. One example of Europe being in the darkness is that all the women Marlow meets while in Europe are in black clothing or knitting black wool, maybe suggesting that these Europeans are in the dark and do not know what is going on in Africa. There are a couple areas in the text that suggest that one should hide the truth from the women because they would not be able to handle the truth. They talk about how out of touch women are and how they have never seen anything like it before, that they live in a world of their own. The women (Europeans) will not be able to handle reality. Especially at the end of the narrative when Marlow goes to Kurt’s intended and tells her what will make her happy and keeps her in the “darkness.”

By telling his story, Marlow is bringing light to what is going on in Africa. I think the true enlightenment is bringing to light, to the Europeans, what is actually going on over there and through the telling of Marlows story it is bound to eventually spread through Europe and Europe will eventually be enlightened.

"I tried to break the spell-the heavy mute spell of the wilderness-that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, had driven him out of the edge of the forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations"(87). This quote, I believe is a very good representation of how Marlow views Kurtz, a man who is caught between two worlds-England and Africa. In Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, he sends his main character, Charlie Marlow, a seaman and wonderful storyteller into the heart of the Congo. He is sent there to rescue Kurtz, a person who he has heard much about. On his way to the Inner Station, he meets several men-- the accountant, the brickmaker and the manager, to name a few. Marlow also meets many canibals, natives of the land and notices their anguish. He comes to despise the white men with whom he works, and seems himself to be caught in two worlds- in between the English and the Canibals, neither with whom he identifies with. Marlow treks into the wilderness, as neither an Englishman or a Cannibal from Africa. His struggle is perhaps what Kurtz struggled with as well.
As he goes deeper and deeper into the dark jungle, Marlow does not have a total understanding of darkness. He knows something is going on, deeper and more mysterious and darker than he could imagine, but he keeps on going. He does, however, note that a man is not at his darkest until left on his own with his own feelings. Certain feelings out weigh others, he notes this on the boat when watching the Canibals. He is afraid they might cause an uproar because of their huger. He believes that hunger will outweigh other things. Left to his own thoughts, a man can drive himself mad.
He comes on shore once he reaches the inner station. When talking to Kurtz's Russian sidekick, Marlow notices that he doesn't really want to talk too much about Kurtz. Marlow calls Kurtz mad, but the Russian is quick to defend him. He then tells him about how Kurtz has aquired so much ivory- and how terrible he can really be. On their walk, Marlow notices that what he thought were ornamental knobs on posts were actually human heads of some of the natives. Only one is facing him. The Russian says that these are rebels, but Marlow doesn't belive him because he's heard natives called 'criminals' before when it was not true. As this scene plays out, Marlow realizes two things- his growing mistrust of the pilgrims and his understanding of how dark Kurtz is. He even says that Kurtz is dark to the core.
When meeting Kurtz, Marlow does not get the impression that he thought he would. He is fragile and very close to dying. Perhaps the best representation of Kurtz's relationship with his home country, England and his new home, the African wilderness, is when Kurtz sneaks out in the middle of the night. Marlow writes of waking up at midnight and hearing drums, he also notices that Kurtz is not in his room and that he, sick as he was, crawled on all fours to get to the drums and fire of the wilderness. That night, Marlow, who is a representation of the English world and the natives, who represent Africa, fought over Kurtz. He says he could visibly see the fight in Kurtz's soul, and though he was still in his right mind, his soul was mad. This is the relationship between a man who is left to his own, and two countries. He is completely torn because of his lust for ivory and his madness caused by being on his own so long. Marlow's first thoughts of darkness are proven correct, that a man becomes most dark when he is left to his own thoughts.

The Relationship of Kurtz, Europe, and Africa in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s’ Heart of Darkness is a literary masterpiece that delves into the deep psychological make up of man. By exploring the effects of placing civilization into the very depths of wilderness, Conrad suggests that, void of any sense of normalcy, man could very well go mad. He makes this point by marvelously placing one mysterious character in between two worlds, Europe and Africa. The relationship between this central character, Mr. Kurtz, and the two worlds creates a veritable “heart of darkness”.

One of the most interesting tools Conrad uses to build that relationship is point of view. Throughout the story, we learn of Kurtz through the eyes of another seaman named Marlowe who is actually spinning a sailors yarn. The affect of this limited third-person narrator is that everything we learn about Kurtz is relative to the viewpoint of Marlowe. For some, it brings into question the validity of the story. Nonetheless, it does help to interweave the relationship between Mr. Kurtz, Europe, and Africa.

We get our first impressions of Europe through Marlowe during his trip down the River Thames in London. He contextually describes the ancient Roman conquest as “merely a squeeze, and nothing more.” According to Marlowe, this conquest was “not a pretty thing when you look into it too much”. But, unlike the Romans, what saved Europeans in his time was an “idea”. Thus, European ideals, whether it is bringing Christianity or civilization to others, justified their conquest. His tone seems quite sarcastic in this description making the reader question if “an idea” is really enough to justify “taking away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves”. This is great example of how Marlowe qualifies our viewpoint of Europe.

However, Europe is better conceived in contrast to Africa. One example is found when Marlowe describes a Man of War sitting off the coast of Africa seemingly firing at nothing. This image makes Europe, with all its grandeur, seem inane in the African setting. Furthermore, upon landing in Africa, Marlowe’s depiction of European machinery lying “as dead as the carcasses of some animals” suggests that European influence could not survive in the African wilderness. A final example is found when Marlowe is looking at the serenity of nature and all of a sudden a rhinoceros comes and disturbs the piece of the moment with “a deadened burst of mighty splashes”. All of these examples point to the degrading effect of nature upon Europe.

These images are very significant because Marlowe says of Kurtz, “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.” In essence, Kurtz is Europe; and, like Europe, “he had no restraint”. In his mind everything belonged to him. At one point, Kurtz exclaimed, “My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river.” This lack of restraint placed a terrible toll on a once “noble and eloquent man”. According to Marlowe, “the wilderness…had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion.” Thus, just like that the Man of War, or that abandoned machinery, the African wilderness had rendered Kurtz ineffectual, and eventually left him as a carcass. He could not survive the innards of the wilds. The “heart of darkness” was just too much for him.

Clearly, then, in this work, Europe is destroyed by the depths of Africa. Since Kurtz is made from all of Europe, his innate failings where magnified by abundance of commodities and deadly isolation that Africa offered. In the end, though, he could never enjoy all of his “ivory”. He was consumed by the darkness.

The Heart of Darkness

When I think of the question how Marlow found Europe, Africa, and Kurtz related in some way, I think of the hearts of all three. The title of the story describes the hearts of Europe, Africa, and eventually Kurtz. Their hearts were dark. Most people, places, and things don't start off dark they become that way over time, due to outside influence or passions roaring within. In the story Europe was to be the enlightener, but under everything was just the opposite. Like every successful undercover operation, it portrays itself to be the picture of perfection, happiness, success, prosperity for everyone, but behind the scenes, all of these things would be the opposite. The operation is truly flaw, sadness, failure, and poverty for everyone. When you think about the scene at the outer station where they had enslaved many Africans, how could this be enlightenment or success for all involved. The desire to get gain on behalf of Europe and the people of Africa may have started off without darkness but became dark along the way driven by a passion of greed. In the story it mentions that Kurtz was made of everything Europe. This ties Kurtz and Europe together as the two main contributors of what was happening in Africa. Kurtz and Europe used their knowledge to play on and take advantage of the ignorance of Africa. When Kurtz first arrived in Africa, his intentions were harmless, and because of outside influence, or maybe a passion to portray the truth about the horror in himself, led him astray. The story mentions that Kurtz was an extremist, so for him to corrupt himself just to prove that enlightenment was not being spread, was not unlikely. Africa is the picture of this so called enlightenment that Europe and Kurtz are contributing to society. If there were ever anything as dark as the way the slaves, or as they were called the criminals, were referenced to and treated was revealed here. They were never referred to as people always shapes and shadows. The story is full of death. Death not only of the slaves and soon Kurtz, but death of truth, hope, and love. I believe that Marlow knew that within Kurtz, Europe, and Africa, was the truth, and the only one that was not totally lost to the darkness was Kurtz. Kurtz still held the truth inside him even until the end laying on his death bed. Kurtz had things to remind him of the truth, like the pamphlet he had Marlow to keep. Marlow admired Kurtz not only for his eloquence, but his courage to say what he had in his heart. Even in the end Marlow still does not have the courage to tell the truth and shed some light on things. He tells Kurtz's fiance that Kurtz's last words were her name. If he would have told her what was truly said, maybe that would have opened the door for enlightenment. Marlow knew that Kurtz, Europe, and Africa were prisoners of this darkness, and that the real enlightenment was the truth coming out.

The Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s novella, The Heart of Darkness, is a story revolving around two main characters; Marlow and Kurtz. The story starts out with Marlow telling a sea story, and throughout the novella, that seems to be the main point of the narrative. It seems as though Conrad wants us to think the entire story is about a voyage taken through the Congo river in Africa by this youthful and aspiring man (Marlow) looking to better himself in the world. This novella follows that path until the second protagonist is introduced, and that point the story seems to take a huge turn. Kurtz is introduced to Marlow in the narrative by the Manager only by word of mouth. The Manager speaks very highly of Kurtz and explains his importance to the company’s success. From that point on, the theme of the story shifts to finding Kurtz and saving him before he dies from sickness. Marlow’s drive, or will succeed in the Congo, is derived simply from the fact that he must meet Kurtz and converse him; though Marlow does not realize this until he faces a near death encounter with the natives. It is at this very moment that Marlow realizes the ominous importance of Kurtz, not only to the company, but to Europe and Africa as well.

Kurtz was direct representation of all that was good in Europe. He represented a vast background and many cultures. His mother was half-French and his father was half-English which clearly made him a representation of that portion of Europe. Everyone knew of Kurtz and many of which sought for his guidance. It is best stated in the novella on page 74; “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs (ISSSC) had entrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance.” That report alone supported the sole purpose of the company’s purpose in Africa. Europe felt it was their responsibility to impress civilization on the so called savages of the world. Europe felt that this is what Kurtz was achieving in Africa, and made him very important. Not only was he important to Europe, but he was just as important to the company. He was the company’s best hope for gaining money and profit. Due to this, Kurtz was a big part of the company’s appearance, and the company did not want the real truth about their “enlightening” of the natives to get out. Kurtz made a tremendous sacrifice for the truth to be known throughout Europe, but in the end it cost him his life.

Kurtz’s relation with Africa was a completely different one. He went from representing all that was good in the intentions of Europe to be the exact portrait of what the company’s sole purpose was; and that purpose was to make money at all cost. Africa and the natives had a fear of Kurtz, he intimidated many of them. He knew that he must either kill them to show that he was ominous, or enslaving them to help him achieve his goal. Many of the natives saw Kurtz as a god of sorts; maybe because of his presence or simply placing some of the native’s heads on sticks. Yet this entire time, Europe believed the company was there to enlighten the natives, and make them more civilized. Kurtz’s report for the ISSSC contained a post script, which said “Exterminate all the brutes!” That concise statement completely contradicts everything Europe represented. Instead, Kurtz became the center of exactly what the company was all about, “The horror! The Horror!”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Marlow's Understanding

Through his experience that took him to the deepest, darkest place on earth (from the point of view of most people at that time), his interaction with the natives and pilgrims, all of his keen observations and, most importantly, his time spent thinking about, listening to and watching Kurtz, Marlow, whether he wanted to or not, understood. He knew he understood more and better than most ever would.

How did he come to possess this knowledge that the others in the novella never came close to, chose not to or simply could not grasp? Marlow was able to come to a deep understanding, to allow everything to penetrate his soul yet not take it over and possess it, as with Kurtz, because he had no expectations. He went to the Congo because it was a region he had never explored. He went along for the ride, making himself an observer, not so much a participant as everyone else who went from Europe.

The managers, accountants and pilgrims were there for the power, wealth, prestige and to simply follow orders. They were there for “the squeeze.” They had motives and expectations, as did Kurtz. However, Kurtz took the orders too far. Marlow understood that, yes, Kurtz "stepped over the edge." However, was he not also just following orders, like everyone else?

Kurtz was told to get ivory. He got the ivory. He did what the heads of the Company wanted him to do. Although Kurtz’s “method” was extreme, (raiding, sticking human heads of “rebels” on poles and such), how much different was it from making natives into slaves, forcing them to build unnecessary railroads or to dig holes that had no purpose? Regardless of the method, natives died, and the heads of these operations in Europe got what they wanted: their ivory, their fortune, their free labor.

Marlow understood the sheer absurdity and irony of it all. He understood what those within the system dared not to consider. Kurtz was essentially what they wanted when they went to Africa. He was what they wanted to be to the natives. He was the natives’ God, savoir, idol. He brought the “light.” Kurtz was the perfect embodiment of the system. “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.”

They, the managers and leaders of these companies, did not want to admit it, so they covered the tracks, the blood, keeping society blind to the reality. They glossed over it with talk of enlightenment and building civilization out of nothing. They made themselves believe these ideas and the righteousness of what they were supposedly accomplishing, ultimately making themselves blind and immune to the inhumanity, absurdity and the reality. These colonizers did not want to see themselves for what they really were: intimidators, raiders, and murderers.

So, they called Kurtz methods unsound and tried to cover up the evidence, pretending he was simply a man who got the job done, keeping his respected reputation in tact. Of course the managers wanted to get rid of Kurtz. He did it too well, showing what they really wanted was not really that great in the end. There were only words and material objects to make it seem great, making society believe these expeditions were noble.

However, Kurtz said it and got it, and Marlow in turn understood it. This was an understanding society would not know and could not know. It was too dark, seeing what their ideals could actually bring about. “The horror. The horror.” The ends don’t justify the means. There are consequences. “Everything belonged to him – but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many places of darkness claimed him for their own.”

Heart of Darkenss: Kurtz, Europe and Africa

When reading the Heart of Darkness by Conrad, I tried to get the gist of the story; but I concentrated more on actions than I did on the meaning behind them. In addition, I did understand the story, or at least I thought I did. I thought the story was about a man named Kurtz and what he did. I failed to notice the underlying story, the more important one—the one dealing with Marlow and what the actions of Kurtz truly meant. Why Kurtz did what he did, and how he challenged the system that so desperately wanted to control him. I finally began to understand that everything Kurtz did was for something other than ivory; Kurtz had a point to make. Marlow is helping the legacy of Kurtz live on by simply telling the tale of Kurtz’s life. Not only that, but Marlow is showing people how he viewed Kurtz and his relationship with Europe and Africa.

Kurtz had a very interesting relationship with Europe. The company liked Kurtz, at first. He was there best hope for gaining any money. However, the company was very concerned with their appearance; they did not want anyone to know that they were in Africa for making money. They wanted their employees to have that same attitude—say one thing, do another. However, Kurtz did not do that. Kurtz became the man who truly showed what the company was all about, and that was making money. Kurtz knew that no one else would question to the company because of their power, but he knew that he had to make known the real reasons for their “enlightening” the natives. Therefore, Kurtz did the best thing he could do: he turned into a complete barbarian, taking as much ivory as possible, regardless of who he had to kill. Kurtz knew that what he was doing was a horrendous thing, yet he sacrificed himself so that the rest of Europe may know the truth. At times I thought Kurtz was completely barbaric, but his last words proved me wrong. “The horror, the horror” were his last words; words, as I believe Marlow saw them, that showed that Kurtz knew exactly what he was doing, although he regretted every minute of it. He was able to make the truth known, but it cost him his life.

His relationship with Africa was completely different from the one he had with Europe, although they both had one thing in common: both feared Kurtz. Europe because of how dangerous he could be if the truth got out, and Africa because of brutal he was to the natives. Africa feared Kurtz and the power that he brought with him; he seemed unstoppable, and those who rebelled were killed. Even though Kurtz was not really a cold-blooded killer, he knew that doing the extreme was necessary to make the truth known about what was going on in Africa. It seems that Kurtz was seen as some kind of deity, perhaps because of the way he used his power. One event that really sticks out to me is the way he had heads on sticks surrounding his camp. Kurtz was not just leaving the heads up there for the natives; I believe he put them up there for the Europeans as well. Kurtz wanted to show that Europeans were not enlightening Africans, they were using them to get what they wanted, just as Kurtz used the natives to get what he wanted: power. In addition, with that power Europe would not help Africa; they would in reality harm them. Europeans would slowly suffocate the Africans, without the Africans even having a clue.

Stephanie Bosarge


What Is Seen

Marlow, the character whom is pursued through out Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, is an individual that is able to make a reader very aware of his ideas, outlook, or stance on several situations. In the launching of his adventure, the reader is shown (through Marlow’s own words) what he feels about his surroundings, those being the boring and dull offices with the two distinguishable ladies sitting up front. It is through Marlow’s exceptional ability to describe a situation with such spell-bounding (just sounded good not even sure that makes sense : ) depth and emotion. It is because of this skill that it is possible to take a “stab” at how they feel Marlow understands the relation between Kurtz, England, and Africa.
While we follow Marlow and his conversations with the people that surround him in this “savage” land, as well as his conversations with his friends whom he has taken it upon himself to share this story with, we immediately get a sense of how and when his overall understanding of Kurtz begins to take place. By word of mouth, Marlow begins to hear many different details that Kurtz possesses and what type of person people seem to see him as. This serves as a type of stepping stone to which Marlow begins to create his own portrait of what this man stands for. It is shared (in great detail) exactly what emotions are raised in Marlow from these conversations with the men around him and what exactly it is that he learns of this mysterious man. It is obvious that Marlow is beginning to see or realize exactly what type of connection Kurtz and the two countries have with one another, but it is not until after actually meeting the man that he can or will truly understand the relation.
When Marlow arrives to the location from which Kurtz presently resides, he is immediately encounters a man whom he finds to be an interesting character. It is not as important for us to focus on the text that was shared between the two men, but more important for us to realize: 1) this gentleman is a student of Kurtz and 2) that based on what was said between the two, this served to in many ways change some of the ways Marlow may have previously felt or thought of Kurtz. Marlow now has a deep sense of what he feels to be the man Kurtz, but he has still to meet him. Finally, the time has now come that Marlow will meet Kurtz face to face. From here, Marlow will come to a truer understanding of who Kurtz really is from his own experience with him.
Skipping along a little so that I a may just state what it is that Marlow understands: Marlow has now met Kurtz and had several memorable moments with the man in this native and dark land, up to the point of Kurtz’s death. Through what Marlow has heard and seen of Kurtz as well as what and how Marlow expresses it to his friends on the boat, I would say that he sees how Kurtz has come to stand for what England is trying to represent. He is a loyal servant to his country that does what is expected of him: his duty. Marlow also sees Kurtz’s blindness to this foreign land. He sees his ability to extort these people for his benefit and not blink at his actions. The only relation it seems Kurtz holds with this Africa land, is that of a business relation. It offers what he needs and he adapts to it: he finds his mistress, creates followers around him, and touches the heart of many of the men that come into contact with him.
There are more examples and more detail that can be added on from here, as well as a couple things that could be extracted, but what has been mentioned is generally a summing up of Marlow’s outlook on the topic, but the one thing that expresses the understanding that Marlow come to is nothing more than the way he describes those last words: “The Horror! The Horror!”

Heart of Darkness

In “Heart of Darkness”, Marlow’s journey into the heart of Africa becomes a journey into the human spirit. “Heart of Darkness” projects the image of Africa as ‘the other world’, the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization. Marlow, the protagonist of “Heart of Darkness”, is generally skeptical of those around him. Although Marlow shares many of his fellow Europeans’ prejudices, he has seen enough of the world and has encountered enough degraded white men to make him skeptical of imperialism. Mr. Kurtz, chief of the inner station, is in charge of the most productive ivory station in the Congo. Hailed universally for his genius and eloquence, Kurtz becomes the focus of Marlow’s journey into Africa. Kurtz is a man of many talents, the chief of which are his charisma and his ability to lead men. Kurtz is also a man who understands the power of words, and his writings are marked by an eloquence that obscures their horrifying message. Kurtz was once what Marlow is, however, he became increasingly corrupt as he was isolated from the civilization of Europe. He truly symbolizes Europe in that “his mother was half-English, his father was half-French.” “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz…” He is also a “renaissance man” and very talented. He stands by his virtues and also symbolizes the good intentions of Europeans. Under the influence of the manager, though, his sinister and harmful side is exposed. In Africa, repressed urges arose which he could not control. Lost in the darkness of his own being, he defines this new found reality as “the horror”. Despite his descent into evil, Marlow respects Kurtz in comparison to the much more “hollow men” whom he refers to as “pilgrims”.

Throughout life, one must constantly fight against the forces of darkness. Kurtz fights a battle against the so called “darkness”. This darkness surrounds Africa and the African peoples. The greatest darkness, however, exists within Kurtz himself. The first type of darkness that Kurtz must conquer is one of ignorance that surrounds the Europeans in regards to the African natives. Prior to Kurtz’s voyage, he is part of a society where traditional law prevails. When he penetrates deep down the Congo River, he enters an area where it appears law is all but absent. He observes people living under an entirely different code of ethics than the one he is accustomed. The Europeans that surround Kurtz treat the natives very poorly. They instituted the many programs such as slavery that exploit the natives and their land, using an excuse that they are just inferior. Kurtz spends a great deal of time with the natives, and he learns that they are not inferior as the Europeans believe, but instead they are just not technologically advanced and have a different moral system. The second type of darkness that Kurtz must fight is the darkness inside himself: The forces of selfishness and greed that are compelling to him to take advantage of the African peoples. This darkness is apparent when the time comes for Kurtz to leave the jungle and just as he is about to do so, he turns back. Instead of taking what he learned about the natives to heart, he takes advantage of the fact that in the jungle, he will be treated as a god, and will be able to do all he wants forever. It is this lapse in judgment that causes Kurtz to say at the end of the book, “The horror! The horror!.” When he says this, he is expressing the disappointment in himself that instead of doing the correct thing and returning to Europe to enlighten the people, an action that would have made a real difference in the lives of the Africans, he took advantage of his perceived superiority and allowed himself to be idolized.

Overall Kurtz symbolizes Europe towards the end of Imperialism when they began to recognize and realize their actions as harmful and evil. Although he remains a mystery even to Marlow, Kurtz clearly exerts a powerful influence on the people in his life. His downfall seems to be a result of his willingness to ignore the hypocritical rules that govern European colonial conduct: Kurtz has “kicked himself loose of the earth” by fraternizing excessively with the natives and not keeping up appearances; in doing so, he has become wildly successful but has also incurred the wrath of his fellow white men.

The Darkness and the Light

Light and Darkness both have their own tropes. One symbolizes enlightenment, hope, and salvation while the other encapsulates mystery, despair, and secrecy. The character of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness embodies both of these elements as he is met with the fierce trials of the Congo.
Marlow describes him as “the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness”. This passage describes Kurtz’s two-sided personality. He is innately good but easily tempted into the corruption of profit. He started out representing the idea of charity and colonization, of spreading the light of Europe, but became enveloped by the darkness of the Congo. His residence at the inner station in the heart of the mission made it easier for him to slip into the Belgian scandal. He became obsessed with the acquisition of ivory and used his good attributes to take advantage of the neighboring troops and incorporated them into the scandal as well.
Marlow reinforces this idea by saying “the thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own”. Kurtz, after being stranded by the rest of the Company, has lost his light in the encapsulating darkness of the inner jungle. To survive, he begins raiding native villages for their ivory, even threatening his only companion, the Russian, if he didn’t hand over his ivory to him. Instead of coming to Africa and spreading the light of reason, he has been taken captive by its darkness. This is representative of the “idea” that Marlow was talking about, the idea of civilizing savage peoples. The idea is lost in the impenetrable darkness of the Congo and the corruption that it represents.
However, on his death bed, Kurtz shows his illuminating personality once more by dissenting against the goings on of the Europeans in Africa. In his babbling, he frequently speaks out about the horror and the darkness of the conquest. He leaves his papers in the protection of Marlow because it was “his duty” to reveal the scandal. He still believes in the idea once he meets with Marlow, who says that “he in a sense came back to himself” meaning that once away from the darkness and despair of the jungle, he regains his reason.
Kurtz’s character is split down the middle between his ideals and his temptations. On one hand, he is encouraging the colonization and civilizing of these savage people, but on the other hand he turns into their king, using their barbarism to achieve his own success. Part of him is the embodiment of the “idea” and the rest is the embodiment of the darkness he had initially came to enlighten.

Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness" is a complex story or epic of a great sea captain. The story is told from the first hand account of a brave sea captain named Marlow. His experiences impacted him so much that he felt lead to share his story. One evening aboard a boat near the Thames River Marlow beings to share his adventure of the Congo River with some fellow shipmates perhaps out of sheer boredom. Marlow illustrates an assignment that he took from a trading company that was based back in Europe. The company had three stations along the Congo mainly dealing with imports and export trading. Marlow’s assignment was to lead a steamboat up the Congo River and rescue the previous manager of the trading post, Kurtz, who had become stranded. As Marlow arrived at the second camp where his steamboat was located he was instructed to repair the boat because it had hit a snag in the river and sunk. As he began work on the task at hand he discovered many untold truths about the camp and the new acting manager. As Marlow tried to repair his steamboat he encountered a shortage of rivets to seal the leaks, although the first camp had rivets galore. Marlow soon discovers that his attempts at repairing the boat were being delayed on purpose by the acting manager. The manger and his uncle were trying to stall the trip up river to rescue Kurtz in the hopes that Kurtz would kill over and they could claim all of the ivory that Kurtz had collected. So actually the task that Marlow had been assigned to was to rescue the precious ivory not the stranded Kurtz. As the story unfolds Marlow beings to understand the relationship throughout the entire trading post, especially the relationship between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa. Kurtz had become one with the natives of Africa and had a vast understanding of the darkness or the land itself. Although it was never stated, I believe that the poor man had gone crazy at that desolate camp along the Congo. I believe that Marlow really feels sympathy for Kurtz, or perhaps a respect for the once great leader and man. After the rescue party gets to Kurtz, or shall I say the ivory, they begin on a voyage back down river. Kurtz eventually dies and gives Marlow some important documents that contain a report on the hole trading process. Kurtz and Marlow I don’t believe ever really become friends or buddies, but Kurtz trusts Marlow due to his sound judgement. Perhaps Kurtz was once a great man but Marlow illustrates his own greatness through his narrative although I believe that his intentions were not impress his fellow shipmates, but rather to pass that time.

Two Regions in One Man

Marlow shows a great admiration for Kurtz. But one thing that stuck out in my mind was when he was describing Kurtz (before he ever met the man). He said that his mother was half-English and his father was half-French but that "all Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz." This statement alone sets the foundation of Kurtz's connections with Europe and Africa. At the beginning of this book, Marlow contrast the empires of Rome and the current Empire of Great Britian. He said the unlike the Roman Empire that conquer land strictly for power, Great Britain conquer land to spread their ideas across the world and help all of the world to become civilize. This idea may of had been the common reason of the time, but the mindset of most Europeans was to gain wealth. This features, however, were not shared by Kurtz. He had the idea of spreading his ideas through any means necessary. He actions kind of remind me of the French radical Robespierre, who during the Reign of Terror, beheaded thousands of French citizens in order to rid France of the monarchial system that previously existed. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow is in search of Kurtz but finds him living among the native Africans. But the supriser is that they seem to be idolizing him as to the extent of offering sacrifices to him. In some way, he has manage to bring a type of fear into the natives as to now they see him as a saviour type figure. This is want brings him in comparision with Europe and Africa. Not only dd he bring the European mentallity of striking fear into his African counterparts, but he then lives among them and is taking in their culture (and also their women). Marlow admires the fact that Kurtz did what everyone else merely thought of doing. He had a plan, adapted to his surroundings, and conquered his goal. Unfortunately, he ends up regretting everything he did on his deathbed. THE HORROR! THE HORROR! At the beggining of the reading, they had a side reference to the movie "Apocalyse Now" and how it was expired from this book. Now that I have read it, I think it is a complete ripoff of the book. It has damn near the same plot, A young man looks for a rebel companion in the jungle and finds out that he has become the worshipped of a local tribe. In the end, the rebel dies there. Just change Africa to Vietnam and early twentieth century to the sixties, and we are set. This book shows its reader how an idea that is originally established as a mask in front a more true cause can be taken to the extreme by one human been.

Conrad's novella

Conrad presents us with an interesting novella. In it he unfolds not only the characters themselves but also the underlying issues which were present during those times. Some of these issues include the persecution of the natives, the comical appearance of doing things for an idea, and how even the most promising individual can become deluded and driven by the love of money.

To start off, Conrad does a nice job of explaining how abusive the Europeans were towards the natives. Take for instance the scene of the French man-of-war. It was shelling the coast for no apparent cause other than “there was a camp of natives – he called them enemies - hidden out of sight somewhere”. Why were the natives the enemy? What had they done? Here Conrad lets the reader decide that for themselves and through this strategy of ambiguity, he creates a large amount of suspicion in one’s mind. He goes so far as to make the reader have compassion on the natives as they endure their abusive treatment. Another example of this is the scene at which Marlow arrives at the outer station, when he discovers the dying. As one reads that section, a sense of the utmost pity is invoked. One begins to see just how cruel and savage the white were treating the blacks.

Almost from the beginning of the novella, Conrad raises the notion of what makes the conquest of the Congo a worthy cause. As he puts it, the presence of an “idea” is what makes something, such as they were doing, a legitimate cause. However, as Conrad continues his story, it becomes apparent that even with this “idea”, the desire of man take control and what follows is that which is seen in Heart of Darkness, nothing short of slave labor, threats, and brutality. This is illustrated throughout the entire novella. The terms which the natives were called, the chains they were put in, and even those who had become “civilized”, they were not treated much better than the slaves they were in charge of.

Finally there is Mr. Kurtz. The one who all thought so well of, yet in the end, he was the worst. A dictator and a tyrant at his highest and through him many suffered. How could such a man who was exalted to godlikeness be truly no better, if not worst, than his peers? This just goes to show how deceived the whites had become about what was really going on. Instead of seeing the lives they crushed, they saw figures and statistics. Instead of torture, they saw punishment for “criminals”. All they saw (or were willing to see) was the potential money which could be gained and because of this, they were willing to trample down anything which dared to get in their way.


Heart of Darkness

In the Heart of Darkness, Marlow tells the story of his trip along the Congo River to rescue a man named Mr. Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz was a very important character in the story. Through the reader’s understanding of him, he/she is able to gain an understanding of the views of Europe toward Africa during the early twentieth century. The reader is also able to understand an opposing view through the changes in Kurtz and his own views of the treatment of the Africans.
Kurtz is first associated with England through Marlow’s explanation of his heritage. Marlow explained that Kurtz’s “mother was half-English and his father was half-French. All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.” This statement by Marlow was very important in explaining the relation between Kurtz and Europe. This is Joseph Conrad’s way of expressing the thought that Mr. Kurtz is a representative of the ideas of Europe toward Africa. This idea is further expressed through the explanation that Mr. Kurtz wrote a report for “future guidance” of groups attempting to improve other societies, in particular, the African societies. Marlow noted that this report was later summed up by Mr. Kurtz himself with a note scribbled at the end of the report stating “Exterminate the brutes.”
The relation between Mr. Kurtz and Africa is somewhat harder to grasp. It first appears that Mr. Kurtz does feel toward Africa just as Europe. After all, he wrote the report expressing the ideas of how to handle them. It seems that during his life before Africa, while he was still of sound mind, he believed they were “brutes” and needed to be “exterminated”. He stole ivory from them in order to send it back to Europe, he killed some of them and displayed their heads on stakes. It seemed he felt no remorse for his actions toward the Africans, just as Europe had shown no remorse. Through the solitude he experienced in the inner station, he eventually lost his sanity. Kurtz had taken the beliefs of Europe to the extreme. These extremes were later seen by him as horrible acts. His statements at the time of his death show this change of attitude. Mr. Kurtz’s last words were “The Horror, The Horror”. This statement, along with his other actions, support the idea that he no longer felt the actions of Europe, and therefore, of himself, were appropriate. Marlow knew that Kurtz’s loyalty to the company was not what it once had been. Kurtz had wanted his papers to be protected from the manager and other members of the company and therefore, gave the papers to Marlow.
Marlow, it seems, has the idea that Kurtz is somehow different from the others in the company. Perhaps that Kurtz is the one that could have changed how Europeans have handled Africans in the past because he had once not only been associated with their ideas, but had actually been a spokesperson for those ideas. Kurtz was one of few men during that time who had seen, and perhaps even felt, the horrors of the attitude toward the African people. Marlow felt that Kurtz could have been a strong influence in changing that treatment. Through Marlow’s telling of this story to his fellow sailors, he is expressing his thoughts of the horrible treatment of the Africans. The name Heart of Darkness expresses the idea that such treatment must come from a very dark place within all people.

Jill Vinson

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Equiano's Rhetorical Strategies

Equiano appeals to his audience in at least three ways, for anti-slavery. One used in the beginning when he is describing his life in Africa is the appeal to audience’s emotions. Europeans at this time viewed most Africans as savage but he turns the tables with the use of emotion. On page 421, he talks about reuniting with his sister, and the joy it brought the both of them. Then he says of their separation, “…but even this small comfort was soon to have an end; for scarcely had the fatal morning appeared when she was again torn from me forever!” He goes on almost talking directly to her, maybe seeking closure with this traumatic experience. Yet I think he is just appealing to the reader’s emotion by showing such pain and heartache over the separation from his family.

Another appeal that Equiano attempts is the appeal to the logic of the reader and the situations he presents. A good example of this is when Equiano talks about men’s freedoms and rights. He says of slave trade, “Surely this traffic cannot be good, which spreads like a pestilence,… which violates that first natural right of mankind, equality and independency, and gives one man dominion over his fellows which God could never intend…” He says that slavery hardens people’s hearts and corrupts their minds. He raises other arguments to logic such as the fact that Europeans stereotype slaves as “incapable of learning,” but enslaving and suppressing them is what causes ignorance.

This section is filled with not only logic but also an emotional side seeps through the text. Equiano uses a lot of exclamation points, rhetorical questions and logic to make his point. There is definitely a point where he climaxes and then calmly comes to a major point. Because of this, it is easily seen that he believes in this whole-heartedly. His point to grasp is “by changing your conduct, and treating your slaves as men, every cause of fear would be banished. They would be faithful, honest, intelligent, and vigorous; and peace, prosperity, and happiness would attend you.”

The third appeal is to Christianity and the civilized. By showing that he aggressively wanted to adopt the religion and lifestyle of a Christian, he proves that an African, when given the chance, is just like any other man. Any man can learn, any man can dream, and any man can rationalize. The idea that all men are created equal and that they shouldn’t be judged by their nationality or origins is emphasized. Thus proving the stereotype of Africans by Europeans greatly wrong, Equiano begins to conclude his autobiography with his conversion to Christianity.

To conclude, I think that Equiano’s appeals to emotion, logic and Christianity are effective. Soon after the publication of his narrative, things changed in England and its colonies in accordance with the anti-slavery movement. Close to the end, Equiano uses logic to persuade the audience to think like him. He introduces the idea that Africa could be a big part of the manufacturing trade if left to grow and prosper when slavery is abolished. Then the African population could grow and demand for manufacturers would do the same.

-Mihee Jones

Friday, March 17, 2006

Is Gulliver’s Travels a misanthropic work?

Just for clarification, misanthrope is defined as “a hater of humanity.” Is Gulliver’s Travels a work in which Gulliver hates humanity? I think so, yes. Of the many things that support this, I think that Gulliver’s first impressions speak the loudest, and what he unconsciously says.

“I continued at home with my wife and children … in a very happy condition…” says Gulliver at the beginning of part 4. Yet when he returns from the Houyhnhnms he says “…my wife took me in her arms, and kissed me; at which, having not been used to the touch of that odious animal for so many years, I fell in a swoon for almost an hour.” Clearly his reaction shows his hatred, not only for Yahoos but his own wife, a human. He goes on to describe how he couldn’t tolerate his family’s smell and touch. He even buys horses with the first money he comes across and says their smell is comforting.

When Gulliver first comes across Yahoos he says “Their shape was very singular, and deformed, which a little discomposed me…” When I looked up discomposed in the dictionary, it said “to disrupt the composure of.” It’s odd that he couldn’t immediately identify his own species. And that the mere image of them upset him. This I think is excellent support that he hates humanity. The funny thing to me is this starts before he even encounters the Houyhnhnms. He goes on to describe the Yahoos as animals, and completely doesn’t make the connection between them and humans. Yet when Gulliver first comes across a Houyhnhnm, his description is with admiration and has peacefulness to it. He says, “… at last I took the boldness to reach my hands towards his neck … but this animal… shook his head, and bent his brows, softly raising up his right fore-foot to remove my hand.” I think he is portraying this horse as a sort of noble or gentleman by the use of the word softly.

Throughout the entire story, Gulliver wishes to separate himself from the Yahoos in everyway. For example, he won’t undress until he is sure that all the Houyhnhnms are no longer awake. When he attends his master at dinner and social events, he is referred to as a Yahoo which he doesn’t like at all. At one point a female Yahoo tries to mate with him, and it becomes clear to the Houyhnhnms that he is indeed a Yahoo. I believe his master refers to his as his “gentle Yahoo.”

Also Gulliver puts the Houyhnhnms on such a pedestal that he doesn’t even want to leave their land when he is told he must. When he returns to England, he is told that he trots like a horse and that he sounds like a horse. Even in his concluding chapter, he is constantly referring to them. He is so desperate to be apart of their ideal society that he shuns his family, customs, and England. He continues to refer to all of human society as Yahoos even after his return.

In conclusion I think that this part of this work is definitely a misanthropic work, in every way possible. Gulliver is completely convinced that the Houyhnhnms are superior to all Yahoos.

-Mihee Jones

Monday, March 13, 2006

Frankenstein and Industrialization

Industrialism and Frankenstein

There are many ways in which Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein reflects the anxieties roused by European industrialization.
In the very beginning of Frankenstein’s tale, he tells of his great love for natural science. When he goes away to study at the University of Ingolstadt, he is immediately drawn to the study of natural science, particularly chemistry. He says, “From this day, natural philosophy and particularly chemistry, in the broadest sense of the term, became my sole occupation.” He becomes enveloped in his work, and learns the secret of life. From there, he sets out to create a living being. He is driven on almost like a madman until his work is complete. He says of himself, “I wished to procrastinate all that related to my feeling of affection until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature should be complete.” This statement reveals a few concerns that came along with industrialization. First, the narrator mentions the absence of emotion during his creation experiment. Science and industrialization kept with enlightenment principles of reason and truth that was proven. Here in the novel, lack of feeling is negatively portrayed as Victor neglects all that is dear to him while he creates a monster.
Another anxiety that can be seen here is the fear of being “swallowed up” by work. Before industrialization, people worked on the land. People experienced a connection with nature. However, with the rise of industrialization, people worked less with the land and more with machines and in factories. It did not require skilled workers. All this new technology required was faceless workers to perform simple tasks, and with this came a fear of being swallowed up, or forgotten in the glory of innovation.
A major theme in the story is the pursuit of knowledge. Victor Frankenstein’s diligent pursuit of knowledge ends up taking him further than he ever dreamed. This reflects an anxiety of industrialization. For in the novel, it is Frankenstein’s study and experiment that ultimately lead to his despair and destruction. People were fearful that science taken to an extreme could also have a negative result.
Another major theme of the novel is romanticism. With romanticism came a return to emotion, a rejection of science and reason, and also a return to nature and subjectivity. All of these aspects are seen in the novel. Even the monster, as horrid as he is, exhibits a strong sense of emotion. As he observes the De Lacey family in the woods we see his goodness. He chops wood to help the family and becomes attached to the family. It is this strong bond that he makes that makes his rejection so difficult and helps lead to his fierce hate of humans. In the monster, we observe many emotions ranging from love, sadness, anger, hate, fear, and despair.
Nature plays a key role in the novel. The settings heavily influence the tone of the novel, whether in the fiercely cold artic or in the woods around the De Lacey cottage where the flowers are blooming in Spring. This use of natural imagery once again shows the anxiety people felt about industrialization.
This acclaimed novel captures in many ways the zeitgeist of Europe in the 19th century. As industrialization brought great change, people were fearful of too much change. This novel presents a picture of all that was happening in that time and also the many fears that people experienced.

Deniese Willard

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Frankenstein and Industrialization

Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein and European industrialization have many similarities. For instance, Victor Frankenstein's creation of his monstor and the explotion of the Industrial Revolution. Victor was creating something new and unheard of while many new jobs and opportunities were being created across Europe. While new inventions can be a wonderful thing, many times society can shape them into horrible things. For example, with the monstor he was created as a nice, caring being. It was when Victor abandoned him that caused him to seek revenge and kill innocent people. The townspeople also had an effect on the monstor. When he saved the drowning girl he was shot at, when he met the cottager, Felix screamed and scared him out of there. Had Victor and society accepted him, he would not have seeked revenge or used his monstrous build to his advantage. European Industrialization was a time of new knowledge and experimentation, but one thing that Shelley points out in her novel is that knowledge is not always power. It is the knowledge and the desire to create something new that kills Victor Frankenstein, his family, and his closest friend. Victor even mentions in the novel that, "when something totally takes over you and becomes your total focus one should leave it alone(Ch. 14). Unfortunately, by the time Victor realized this it was already too late. The monstor even makes reference to the idea that knowledge is not always good. While he is watching the family in the cottage he learns that he does not have a name and that he is alone. This saddens the monstor and he wishes that he did not know lonliness.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Frankenstein and Industrialization

In a world of Enlightenment, Mary Shelley addresses the fear of the Industrious age of her time. With the world at scientists and researchers finger tips the exploration was endless. The anxieties due the idea of the unknown was enormous among the population at that time. During the time of Industrialization Period the thought that knowledge provided freedom and happiness, that researching and creating lead the fast span of knowledge that this unstoppable frighten the population. "Human reason was considered the path to understanding the universe and improving the human condition, the result of which would be knowledge, freedom, and happiness." In Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, she ventures out into the vast land of Enlightenment and Industrialization and explores the idea of creation and the risks that come along with it. "The scientific approach to discovery was vey successful in the fields of science and mathematics and spurred the search for rules that could define all areas of human experience." The idea that science is so powerful that one human can use their knowledge to perfect creation, left a lot of people sleepless. Shelley falls under the category of a Romatic writer with her novel being considered a Gothic novel. "Romatic writers stressed emotion and subjectivity, and often asked their readers to suspend their disbelief." Mary Shelley is definitely a definition of a Romantic writer, in Frankenstein the reader to be able to lay aside their disbelief in order to fully understand and enjoy the novel. Through the novel you see how Shelley uses the fears of the characters to induce the fears of her readers. She embraces the controversial modern issues of her times and brings them to the light in her novel. "Shelley is known for using a contemporary setting and modern issues to illustrate the weird and terrible to evoke the reader's fear of the darkness in human nature." The one thing that we as humans try to ignore, Shelley forces us to face.

Frankenstein and Industrialization

It was a time of amazing scientific achievements. Man learned to harness the power of the machine on an unprecedented scale. For the first time, mankind abandoned the agrarian life and flocked into cities. This was the era of the industrial revolution. Although, this period boasted huge economic growth and marvelous industrial achievements, it was also a time of abject poverty and city-wide epidemics. Thus, while many put their hope in the great scientific progress, others warned of the danger this over emphasis on scientific achievement could bring. These dissenters helped to create a new school of thought that rejecting the Enlightenment import of science and reasoning and, instead, emphasized the importance of emotion and individualism creating the Romantic Period. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a product of this period. The themes and images of her novel reflect very powerfully Romantic ideals. They also serve to comment on the anxieties aroused by European industrialization.

At the outset of the story, Victor Frankenstein, as young child becomes a pupil of the archaic teaching of the alchemist Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. Yet, these teachings had long been considered ineffectual. By the time he entered advanced studies at Ingolstadt, he had to reject completely these misleadings and devote himself to Chemistry. As he learned more, he became consumed with the thought of bringing life to an inanimate creature. Thus, depending on his scientific knowledge, he completed his extraordinary task and then just discarded his creation, a monster of most hideous design. By this action, Frankenstein imitates the rational and scientific view of industrialists. He focused solely on the aim of creating a living being. He had no interest in fulfilling the parental duties he owed to his creation. Similarly, industrialists focused on huge yields their machines created and not the effects this work had on their employees. Many worked 14 to 15 hour days for seven days a week to still live in poverty. The working conditions were often hazardous and even the minutest error could cost the worker his life. Certainly, the little care business tycoons took for their workers is paralleled by the apathy Frankenstein exhibited towards his monster.

However, with the events that follow Frankenstein’s initial rejection of the monster, Shelley powerfully cautions her readers of the dangers of overemphasizing knowledge and industrialization. Although, Frankenstein thought abandoning the monster meant the end of their relationship. He soon learned that the monster was forever tied to him and, what’s more, he was determined to bring ruin to Frankenstein and all those he loved. The commentary is clear. If industrialists just concerned themselves with increasing production yields and not the well being of their workers, ruin was to come. Like Frankenstein, the working class could very well rise up and devote themselves to the destruction of these “Robber Barons”.

Although Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein before the heyday of the Industrial Period, her themes certainly apply. The notion of science and progress versus emotion and the individual is a universal concept that transcends almost any time period. This is perhaps why Frankenstein remains timeless classic.

European industrialization and "Frankenstein"

How does Shelley's novel reflect the anxieties aroused by European industrialization?
After reading about European industrialization in ‘book 5’ of the Bedford Anthology, three things became obvious to me. The first has to do with creation and/or production. During the industrialization of Europe, factories sprouted up everywhere and people flocked to them for jobs. These workers worked long days with little reward. In a sense this can be related to Frankenstein. He labored and put so much into giving a corpse life again only to have the monster destroy the people he loved. Frankenstein’s monster is comparable to the workers of the factories; workers were not respected at all and it shows in the way that they were treated. The monster on the other hand was an outcast to society. He was neither human nor an animal. Thus, it can be said that worker and monster struggled daily for survival, acceptance, and their place in society.
Secondly, industrialization is associated with scientific breakthroughs. The theory of germs in relation to disease, the development of a periodic table of elements and the groundwork and discovery of electricity are all credited to the scientists of the 19th century. The increasing conviction that nature was governed by laws was challenged by Darwin and of course this novel. Even though this book is fiction and was written for fun it still plants the thought of ‘what if’ something like recreating life is possible. Still the ‘what if’ question comes to mind, readers are discouraged by the series of misfortunes done unto Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, to think it moral to recreate life (if that was/is even possible).
Thirdly, I want to bring up slavery. By the time that Shelley wrote and published this novel (1818), Britain had already abolished slave trade in 1807 and later abolished slavery in their colonies in 1833. But slavery wasn’t only an issue to Britain, but to many other parts of the world as well. Shelley makes references to slavery in this novel, and it is kind of in the sense of one human to another, especially in the dialogues late in the novel between Frankenstein and his monster. And instead of the monster being enslaved to Frankenstein there is a reversal of roles. Frankenstein feels so much guilt and sorrow on his conscience that he can hardly function, much less be happy. Frankenstein is at the mercy of the monster, especially after he refuses to make him a mate. The monster on the other hand is confused and lost and looking to Frankenstein for answers and help, but when he is shunned, he retaliates. I believe the monster even refers to himself as the “master” and that Frankenstein is his “slave”.
After finishing reading this novel, I felt like Frankenstein was more of a monster, because he created this monster. Even though he later redeemed himself by not creating the monster’s mate, it still doesn’t erase the past. It is said that humans are made in the image of God. And isn’t it the same way in every case?

Mihee Jones

In order for us to gain a proper perspective on history it is necessary for us to view it in a more holistic approach. If we only studied history through recordings of actual events the understanding of history itself would be about as accurate as any fictional novel. This is due to the fact that history is recorded by the "victors" or the ruling classes not by the common people or the defeated. If these "records" were our only means of understanding then we would surely be in the dark. For these records are polluted with countless hypocrisies and contradictions as well as biases. Are we to believe that the proverbial "good king" would ever allow himself to be known as a tyrant? Of course not. That being said we must open our minds and interpret things such as mythology, folklore, art and music. These things reflect the feelings of the people (directly or indirectly) better than any historical record could ever hope to. This point is quite relevant with concern to ancient history. So how does this pertain to modern history ?. The relevance is certainly justified, for intentionally or not the author of a fictional novel reflects his or her own feelings of the times through every aspect of the story.

This brings us to Shelley's Frankenstein and how it reflects the anxieties of European society regarding industrialization. Every story has many possible interpretations and Frankenstein is certainly no exception. At the time Frankenstein was written the western world was in the middle of perhaps the largest transitional period of modern history, perhaps all history. This was the era of industrialization which we are still in the grips of for people all over the world are still adjusting to this monster that swallows entire cultures, spreads disease, and destroys the very planet we call home. All this in the name of "advancement". We must ask ourselves just because we possess a few modern conveniences are we really that much better off. We created these "conveniences" in order to give ourselves more freedom to enjoy life. This is a paradox however for as many modern inventions as we surround ourselves with we just end up working more hours at tedious, monotonous jobs that the vast majority despises. The average hunter gatherer groups (which there are very few left) are able to sustain themselves in a healthy existence to life expectancy rates equal to those of modernized people and the do this on 16 hours of work per week. Should someone in an industrialized society attempt this (with omission to the very few exceptions) they would soon fall to the bottom poverty level and become most miserable. Sure we view them as primitive and miserable but that is not the case. There is an old saying that ignorance is bliss. So ask yourself how free am I really, do not the modern conveniences which we deem necessary to survival serve that purpose or do they ensnare us to a perpetual form of slavery we are totally kept unaware of by our constant need to uphold some status quo.

I must apologize for all the previous rambling, it was only there to aid me in supporting my point of view and interpretation of the story. Towards the end of the story during a conversation between Frankenstein and Walton. Walton ask how Frankenstein animated a corpse and Frankenstein basically replied that such knowledge is not fit to be searched for, he then implores Walton to seek happiness in life through ignorance and not to seek infamy among science for it will only serve to make one miserable and bring ones demise. In this I believe Shelley was making reference to the downside and corruption of science. Also I believe Clerval and his death was significant. Clerval was not interested in science but language philosophy and art. He was able to enjoy sunshine and beautiful days and all the other glories of nature. Frankenstein's monster killed Clerval and in a way I believe this represented industrialization effect on abstract thought as well as nature and all it's splendor. Williams death represented the death of innocence. The death of Elizabeth represented the death of love and Frankenstein himself represented society in general as his monster represented industry itself in a sense. For like industry the monster was not bad in the beginning nor in a sense in the end but he was corrupted by society just like industry. These are some of my interpretations however I am late for class and must stop abruptly and hope my basic point of view has been conveyed.
Steven Robbins

Frankenstein and European Industrialization

Shelley’s novel may reflect the anxieties aroused by European industrialization in a couple different ways. The monster Frankenstein created could represent the uncertainty in the change that was taking place at the time of European industrialization and how quickly industrialization spread throughout Europe.

European industrialization was a time of uncertainty. A great deal of changes was taking place and this made many uneasy about what the future might hold. The monster in Shelley’s novel could be a reflection of these changes. Victor, a scientist, spent some time reading, studying, and learning before he got the urge to create life out of something that no longer had life. When he came up with the idea to create the monster, he was so proud of himself for the accomplishment it would be, that he would be able to do such a thing, that he did not think of the consequences it might cause to him and others. Many scientists, or knowledgeable people, that were around through the industrialization era worked in the same way. They think about what their inventions can do for society, how it will help citizens, and the region grow through innovation. They did not concern themselves with what industry might do to the citizens of Europe, the uneasiness and hardship it would create for many in the beginning.

One section of Shelley’s novel especially reminded me of how a person might look at industry in the beginning stages. This takes place after Victor was released from his criminal charges and is still not relieved of his anxieties. It goes, “I did not participate in these feelings; (his father’s feelings of joy) for to me the walls of a dungeon or a palace were alike hateful. The cup of life was poisoned for ever; and although the sun shone upon me, as upon the happy and gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness, penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me.” This could easily be feelings of a creator of some factory or plant after they looked back at their doing and could finally see the hardship it was causing for others. It could be referring to the pollution and smog that the factories put into the air because they did not have the regulations that are in place today to keep that down. In a place of industry, as it was during European industrialization, it is very dark and dreary because of the smog let into the air. The smoke stacks of some of the plants, with flames coming out of them, may actually look like two eyes glaring at you off in the distance.

Industrialization was something that was necessary to get us to where we are today in the world, so likewise it spread throughout Europe like a wildfire, or like a big monster traipsing across the land. People hated it and were scared of it because they did not know what it was or what to expect from it and saw the damage factories and plants did to the areas in which they were located. In addition, like the monster, industrialization may have been good but did not really have a chance to prove it to others.

Frankenstein the Novel

During the time Frankenstien was written and published, was the time the world was on the brink of an industrial revolution. The only thing I can think of that would cause anxieties in the people is the fact that at this time the employee would be at the mercy of the employers and industrialization would bring new people in your surroundings. I really can't tie the story to idea of industrialization, so I will discuss a couple of things that I got from the novel. I don't believe that the monster's true feelings for Victor was expressed during the novel. Did the monster in spite of all of the anger and resentment he held inside himself for his creator, really care for and respect his creator. If Victor would have stayed in the apartment and not ran from the monster in the beginning of the novel would any of Victor's friens and family have been murdered. I believe that the rage the monster had was driven by nothing more than the monster being lost and unloved. If Victor would have accepted the monster into his life and family, he would have been able to feel the acceptance he needed. When a child is born, if it is abandoned, it will grow up hating its parents. Children still no matter what has been done to them they have a source of connection to where they came from. Victor always believes that the monster was brilliant at manipulating people. This was nothing more than a misunderstanding. Everytime the monster would smile at him he took it as a smile of mischeivious behaivior and evil thoughts. The monster seemed to feel that he wouldn't be satisfied until Victor had nothing like he felt he had nothing. The part of the novel that helps readers to see that the monster did care for his creator is when at the end of the novel, he is sobbing over the death of Victor. While he looked down at his creator laying there with no life in his body, he regrets everything he has done to his creator and is full of remorse. He then decides that he must die also. This is truly a tragedy. If only a few choices were made differently the lives of William, Justine, Henry, Elizabeh, Alphonse, Victor and the monster could have been spared. This novel was put together very well by Mary Shelley. At times you could figure out what was about to happen next in the text, but it still wass an interesting story. Maybe Mary Shelley wrote some of the story from her own life experiences. Mary's personal life was full of scandel and betrayel, and so was this story. The family in Frankenstien and Mary Shelley's family's are similar. Caroline in the story was being raised by her father, so was the young Mary Shelley. Another similarity was that Mary Shelley's father took in Mary's mother's other daughter. In the story Victor's father took in his sister's daughter Elizabeth and raised her as his own. Maybe in a strange way Mary Shelley could relate to the novel that she created. All of the charaters can be related in some way to her life and the people in it.

Frankenstien vs. European Industrialization

How does Mary Shelley’s novel reflect the anxieties aroused by European industrialization? In order to effectively answer this question, I think it would be best to illustrate some of the anxieties focused around the European industrialization. Much of Europe’s industrial growth consisted of a large pool of available workers willing to accept low wages for long hours of labor in factories and mines. Many of these workers were originally displaced farmers or farm workers, forced from rural areas due to land shortages thanks to population growth and the consolidation of small farms into large agricultural estates by wealthy upper class. Countryside families moved to cities or coal-mining towns, where parents and children, some as young as five years old, went to work in tile factories or mines. The majority of households in this time period consisted of the entire family working.

Even with whole families working, few avoided poverty, crowded housing, and poor health. Women were often hired in factories because they could be paid less then men. Along with the growing health and poverty issues; the idea of furthering an individual’s education became increasingly important, especially the fields of chemistry, and other science based areas such as medicine. Industrialization was also effective in improving the progress of man kind by decreasing its dependency on nature. As well, everyone during this time starting believing in the “divine role” idea. For example, it is the father of the household to supply for all the needs of everyone in that house. Yes there were many downfalls siding with the European industrialization, but I will only discuss a few of these.

Shelley’s novel reflects an aspect from the industrialization era through the monster created by Victor. The industrialization idea I am referring to is the idea of increasing an individual’s education to further self improvement. The monster, on several occasions, tries to learn a language, geography, and human culture from the cottagers he is spying on. This example, “This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it,” clearly shows that monster was seeking a wealth of knowledge and wanted to learn all that he could from the cottagers (pg. 81, Oxford Edition). The monster obviously thinks the knowledge he is gaining from the cottagers would be important for his improvement or success in the world. In my opinion, the monster does understand at this very moment that it is important to be able to communicate, or else one will fail in our world today. If the could not even communicate with any of the villagers, how must he even begin to fit in at all?

Another reflection of the industrialization era from the novel could be the “divine role” idea. The monster does this by saying “Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…” (pg 77, Oxford Edition). At this point, Victor has sole responsibility as to what happens to the monster, or what the monster may happen to do according to the “divine role” idea. The monster is informing Victor that if he remains happy, he will no longer harm any humans, and following the idea of the “divine role” Victor feels it his sole obligation to take on that task.

Shelley's Nightmare Warns of Consequences

One prevalent theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is her warning against the dangerous acquisition and misuse of knowledge. This warning was fueled by the rapid industrialization of Europe at the time she wrote the novel, the early 1800’s. During this period, great advances in manufacturing, transportation and agriculture led to the expansion and overpopulation of industrial cities such as London.

Deeper rifts in social classes developed, and people working in stifling, low-paying work environments such as factories began to feel more like the machines with which they were working. People were working more to improve, produce, and expedite things while not taking time or having a chance to enjoy or experience life in a fulfilling, emotionally and spiritually rewarding way.

With Frankenstein, Shelley uses the feelings at the time of abandon and despair and turns them into a nightmare complete with a manmade monster, a product of rule-breaking ambition and the selfish misuse of knowledge. She was showing people the terrible consequences this thirst for knowledge and improvement can create. Victor’s disastrous creation of the monster is a signal that people should not let their creations control them. Just like Victor created the monster and became consumed by it, English industrialists and the majority of society became obsessed with producing bigger and better things faster.

Although some thought society was improving and others were led to believe this, the obsession was leading to a decrease in the quality of living and in the regard for human life itself. A few became wealthy while the majority remained or became poor and dejected. With her story, Shelley sends a warning that people should not create for selfish reasons. All advancements should be made with benevolent intentions.

When referring to how his feelings changed after he finished creating the monster, from those of beauty to horror and disgust, Victor remarked, “The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature.” Through this, Shelley is hinting that once one goes so far, there is no turning back. With the rapid industrialization and expansion at the time, if people were not careful, irreparable damage could be done to society and nature making life more difficult to endure over time.

Using the Romantic ideals that emphasize experience and a love of nature, Shelley constantly eludes that man cannot disturb the natural order of things without being negatively affected by his actions. This is apparent in the tragic implications Victor’s creation had on himself and those around him. “Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow,” Victor warns Walton at the beginning of his tale.

Shelley puts a great emphasis on the beauty and healing power of nature. Her elaborate descriptions of the scenery through which her characters travel and by which some, such as Clerval and the monster, are affected are deliberate offerings to readers to understand the effect nature should have on their lives. The seasons (warm vs. cold weather) and surrounding geographical features have an effect on the characters’ moods and livelihood, giving nature an important role. The weight of Victor’s sorrows are lessoned by time spent outside in fresh air. The monster lives in cold, desolate, highly-elevated regions, intensifying his feelings of abandon and despair.

This appreciation of and identification with nature markedly decreased with industrialization. Shelley wanted to point out that people should not take nature for granted and avoid trampling on it on their path to “improvement.” As he is dying as a result of his own misguided manipulations of nature, Victor advises Walton, “Seek happiness in tranquility, and avoid ambition, even if it be only the apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.” With this advice, Shelley is saying people should appreciate the natural world around them and rather than attempting to change and distort it, work with it and try not to alter it too much. Otherwise, ruin is always on the horizon.