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What is Impressionism and is Joseph Conrad an impressionist? Give textual evidence from...

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ikhtiar235 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 30, 2010 at 12:16 AM via web

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What is Impressionism and is Joseph Conrad an impressionist? Give textual evidence from Heart of Darkness.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted August 30, 2010 at 9:04 AM (Answer #1)

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Impressionistic literature can be defined as a work created by an author that centers on the thinking and feelings of the characters and allows the reader to draw his or her own interpretations and conclusions about their meaning.

Absolutely, Heart of Darkness is often cited as one of the preeminent examples of Impressionistic literature. Throughout the novella, we witness the inner workings of Marlow's thoughts and emotions as he journeys up the Congo River toward the Inner Station and his encounter with Kurtz. In fact, it is Kurtz who presents the major focus on Marlow's attention. However, Marlow never comes out and explicitly tells us what he thinks and believes about Kurtz; instead, Conrad leaves us to draw our own conclusions.

Kurtz, too, is much the same. He also shares his thoughts and feelings about his job and his role in the African jungle and the reader is left to "read between the lines" to interpret his exact meaning. No example could better exemplify the element of Impressionism with the novella than Kurtz's final words: "the horror, the horror." A readers we do not know exactly what "the horror" is and instead are left to devise our own interpretation.

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