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Women in The Heart of Darkness

The Role of Women in Heart of Darkness Women have taken an increasingly important role in literature. Only recently, historically speaking, have authors portrayed women in a dominant, protagonistic light. Sophocles and other classical writers portrayed women more as reactors than heroines. Since the ancient Greeks, however, a trend has been established that gives women characters much more substance and purpose. A definite shift from the antediluvian ways can be seen, and the overall complexity of women characters has increased exponentially. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, however, the portrayal of women takes a backwards step and is reverted back to the primitive, more demeaning viewpoint. Conrad employs characters that reflect the archaic perspectives concerning women. The main character, Marlow, generalizes all women and depicts every woman as living in a dream-like state merely “going through the motions” of life.In his descriptions of the various women characters, Marlow either implies or directly states that women are not mentally equipped to survive in society, and can only function in a dream-like state. He also conveys that it is the responsibility of men to save women and preserve their navet. This point of view is reflected often, and stems from his English upbringing and the British society of the day. Marlow speaks utilizing many lewd words and racial slurs. Many of the Victorian ideals still remain within English culture, and this fragility towards women is a prime example of the fragmented set of beliefs. Nevertheless, Marlow views women as mindless pawns, his stance is evident when he goes to speak with the Intended. While speaking with Marlow, the Intended praises Kurtz and speaks of his many good deeds and respectable traits. Hearing these glorifications, Marlow could not bring himself to tell her the truth. Marlow knew that these falsities were the only barrier between the Intended a...

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