Irony in the heart of darkness
To successfully analyze irony in the heart of darkness, learners must first comprehend what an irony is. Irony, as a literary device is often misunderstood. Irony is often misunderstood. Many people are unsure what it means or how to use it properly. Irony can be a powerful tool to add depth and substance in writing if used with skill.
What are the main types of irony?
There are many types of irony. Each one can mean something different.
- Dramatic irony.
- Tragic irony is also known as dramatic irony. This is when a writer tells their reader something that a character doesn’t.
- The reader might know that the bus that is roaring down the highway will be heading for an unfinished elevated freeway junction, and this fills them with fear and anticipation for what is to come: passengers’ horror and shock. Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet shows that each of the young lovers takes the poison believing the other is dead.
- The dramatic irony lies in the desire for the audience to understand the entire story before they take the final action. Similar to Shakespeare’s Othello where Othello believes Iago, but the audience knows better. Find out more about dramatic irony in this complete guide.
- Comic irony.
- This is irony used to comedy effect, such as in satire. Jane Austen was an expert at irony and dialogue. Jane Austen’s preoccupation with social divisions and her witty, insightful tone with which he exposed hypocrisy as well as parodied characters contributed greatly to her voice.
- Pride and Prejudice opens with Austen’s famous line that suggests that men hunt for wives. However, Austen makes it clear throughout that the story that it is the reverse.
- Situational irony.
- Situational irony is when an expected outcome gets thrown out of whack. In O. Henry’s classic story, The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry), a wife trims her long hair in order to sell it to purchase a chain to fit her husband’s expensive watch.
- The husband sells his watch to purchase a comb for his wife. Each person is unaware that their gift will be subverted by the actions of the other. This creates irony in the situation.
- Verbal irony.
- Verbal irony is when the speaker says something that is very different to what they are actually saying. Imagine the knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
- With his arms cut off, he claims, nonchalantly, “It’s just an injury to the flesh.” This is ironically, but also comically, understating the severity of his injuries.
Irony in the Heart of Darkness
You may find literary devices that are common in daily life. Irony is one of these literary devices. Irony refers to when you don’t expect the unexpected. Irony is most commonly seen in the form sarcasm. This is where your words are actually the opposite of what they mean.
Irony is more common in literature than sarcasm. However, it’s still very popular. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a novel that shows irony being used many times.
Irony in the heart of darkness: Marlow’s Commentary
Marlow’s commentary is one place where we can see many examples of irony. Sometimes, what he says in one part of the story is not consistent with what we see later. Marlow, for example, compares British colonization to the Roman conquerors at the beginning of his story, saying that efficiency–the dedication to efficiency–is what saves them. Here, ‘Us’ refers to the British Empire.
Marlow, at Central Station, later discovers the irony in this statement. He claimed that the British were dedicated to efficiency. However, this British-run post is exactly the opposite. Marlow’s steamboat was destroyed before he arrived and, despite having access to supplies at an earlier station for repairs, he cannot get the necessary parts.
The inefficiency of the local population is evident by a man trying to light a fire with a bucket that has holes in it. Marlow’s statement is far more ironic than the reality at Central Station.
Irony is also evident in Marlow’s own statements. He describes how he was able to get his steamboat appointment. This was my chance and it made me more eager to go. Ironically, Marlow would not be more anxious about going if he lost his captain. Marlow’s emotion here is contrary to what he describes.
Irony in the heart of darkness: The Company Clerk
Irony is also evident in the opening of the story with the Company clerk. Marlow visits the Company clerk to sign his paperwork to become captain. Marlow describes the meeting as: “As we sat down over our vermouths, he glorified Company’s businesses, and by and large I casually expressed my surprise that he didn’t go out there.
He was very calm and collected at once. He said, sententiously, “I am not so foolish as I appear, quoth Plato for his disciples.”
The clerk spends the conversation praising Company and their work in Congo. You would think that he would then say that he wishes he could go or that he regrets not being there. Marlow is instead told by the clerk that he thinks the people who are going there are foolish or stupid.
This is a very ironic statement, especially when compared to all the praises he gives his Company.
Irony in the heart of darkness: Kurtz
Kurtz is the most pervasive irony in the novel. It lasts for most of the book. It begins with Marlow’s descriptions of Kurtz, which he gets from his conversations with different employees of the Company.
Marlow is told by Central Station’s manager that Mr. Kurtz was an outstanding agent, a man of great importance to the Company, and the best agent that he had. Marlow later talks about Kurtz with the brick-maker at Central Station. He said, finally, “He is a prodigy.” “He is an emissary for pity, science and progress, and the devil knows what else.”
Irony in the Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad used irony as a metaphor to convey the hidden meaning of his novella Heart of Darkness. Irony is when there is a contrast between what is being said and what is actually happening. Irony can increase the effect. Sometimes it is comical, sometimes it is tragic.
Although irony in the heart of darkness is widespread, that of Kurtz’s conversion to the Congo is the most notable. Kurtz, an intelligent Company agent, once wrote a pamphlet that outlined the important role whites can play in Africa’s interior.
He believed that the whites could suppress the savages and their cruel ways of killing humans and their way of life, while civilizing the backward. He had a progressive and high-quality idea about how to tame the cannibals.
We see that the novel ends with the words “Exterminate all brutes”, which was written at the close of the pamphlet. Ironically, he initially wrote something about whites’ constructive role.
Kurtz, who is regarded as one of the greatest morally restrained people in the world, is also expected to civilize the savages. In the novel, however, Kurtz is shown to be the exact opposite. Instead of civilizing the brutes he becomes a savage.
He behaves normally when dealing with whites, but when it comes to the interior, however, he discovers that he is one of the whites and becomes a wild man. He becomes so powerful that he dominates all the savages and is considered a god. He begins to follow the night rituals, which end with the beheading and brutal raids on the ivory.
Kurtz can’t control his moral self. Kurtz forgets that there is a line between civilized man, and a savage. He was there to transform the savages but he is also transformed. Kurtz’s transformation from savage to hero is a great irony in this novel.
Marlow’s final reactions to Kurtz is another significant irony. Marlow is given a lot of information about Kurtz at the beginning of the novel and forms a disdainful attitude towards Kurtz. He eventually becomes an admirer of Kurtz and begins to respect him.
He develops a strong friendship with him. Kurtz is persuaded to go back to the city. He starts to love the cruel man, who has become a savage. Marlow begins to view him as his own primitive kin.
Marlow, another highly educated and civilized man, is also nearing falling prey to the savagery influences. Although we expect Marlow will hold his hatred for Kurtz until the end, it turns out that Marlow is not living up to our expectations.
Kurtz’s fiancée is quite ironic in her attitude. She is a wonderful lover and has been very devoted to Kurtz. She is proud of her lover’s great mission to civilize the wild. She holds a high regard for her lover, whom she considers a god. Her grief overwhelms her when she learns about Kurtz’s death.
Marlow visits her one year after Kurtz’s passing, but he still finds her in grief. He is a man she loves and has high praise for her. Ironically, the man she loves and still loves has become a devil during the civilization of the savages. Marlow claims that Marlow’s last words were her name, which was a white lie. Kurtz’s last words were “Horror, Horror”.
Kurtz’s adoration by the Russian is ironic. Marlow describes Kurtz as a devil living among the savages. He is, however, a Russian hero of great value.
According to the Russian, Kurtz has expanded his mind and is able to teach people how to see the essence of things. Kurtz is said to possess a hidden wisdom that enlightens him, according to the Russian. It’s ironic that a man who is a devil can lighten the Russian.
This is how the novel Heart of Darkness has many ironies. When Kurtz is unexpectedly transformed, Kurtz’s white fiancee believes that Kurtz is noble and praiseworthy. Marlow praises Kurtz despite his devilishness.
How Conrad uses irony in the heart of darkness
Kurtz’s Fiancee For Kurtz: The Irony in Kurtz’s Admiration
Irony is also evident in Mr. Kurtz’s attitude towards his fiancee. This woman was a devotee of Kurtz and a worshipper of him, the man she fell in love with.
She has felt the greatest admiration and respect for him. She was proud of the man she had accepted to marry her, despite the wishes of her family.
This woman, after hearing about her lover’s death, is thrown into grief. Marlow visits her one year later to find her still in pain. She speaks glowingly about her dead lover and pays him the greatest tribute a woman can.
Ironically, this man, whom the woman still loves and worships, was a devil because he had spent time among the savages. Marlow informs Marlow that her lover’s last words before his death were her names.
He had said her name while she was dying. She is overjoyed, but the truth is that he had only spoken his last words to her.
Irony in the heart of darkness: Russian’s Adoration of Kurtz
Similar irony can be found in the Russian attitude towards Kurtz. Marlow says that Mr. Kurtz is now a devil. Russians consider Mr. Kurtz a hero who deserves admiration. Marlow is told by the Russian that Mr. Kurtz has enlarged his mind, and that Mr.
Kurtz taught him how to see the essence of things. The Russian had perceived Mr. Kurtz as a great moralist and sage.
Kurtz was the source of great insight and illumination for the Russian. It’s quite strange that a man who has become a savage, a beast, could inspire such deep respect in a Russian, who is not a fool nor a simpleton.
Irony in the heart of darkness: Marlow’s Ironical Descriptions
Marlow’s narration also contains irony at times. Marlow’s description of blasting a rock with gunpowder when the rock is not in the. Ironically, he describes the blasting of a rock with gunpowder to make way for the construction of the railway line. Ironic is also his description of the warship’s firing its guns without any purpose.
Although the guns are supposed to be fired in order to kill the enemy, there is no enemy visible in the forest. The warship is simply wasting ammunition.
Irony is also found in the fact the machinery that the white man brought into the Congo is still unutilized. Ironically, Marlow has not been able pull the steamer out of the riverbed, despite having heaps upon heaps of rivets at one of Company’s stations.
Irony in the heart of darkness: Marlow’s Portrayals of White Persons
Marlow’s description of some white people is also ironic. Ironic is the way Marlow describes the two knitting-women in the Company’s Brussels office. His description of the Company’s doctor, and the way he evaluates potential employees of the Company is ironic.
Marlow’s description, as well as Marlow’s description and description of these white agents loitering around at the Central Station of the Congo, is full of irony.
This is where the irony becomes even more pronounced. Marlow, for instance, refers to the sticks these men carried and says, “I verily believe that they took these sticks with them to bed.
” The irony isn’t sombre, tragic or sad. It’s comical and amusing. Irony is also evident in his portrayal as the uncle of the manager and brick-maker, who attempts to extract some information from Marlow. This is because Marlow believes that Marlow is highly connected, with a lot influence over the top officials at the Company.
Irony in the heart of darkness: What is it?
Irony can intensify a certain effect, as we have already seen. Irony is used in this novel to intensify the sadness and melancholy that characterize the story’s prevailing atmosphere. Irony intensifies the sadness we feel when we read about Mr. Kurtz’s unexpected transformation.
We are saddened by the ignorance of Mr. Kurtz’s fiancee regarding this transformation in him. She still sees him as her noble knight, her hero, and is idealistic. We feel the same regret over the moral decline that unexpectedly occurs in Marlow, and we admire Mr. Kurtz.