How does Conard uses contrasts to achieve his purpose(s) in Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conrad is a master of dualities, contrasts, foils, doppelgangers paradoxes, oxymorons, and analogies.  In short, every major character has a double and every major element (symbol, theme, image) has a contrasting element.  Also, Conrad infuses his stories with Freud's psychoanalytic theories to show the dualities of human nature.

  • light vs. dark
  • good vs. evil
  • white vs. black
  • European civilization/colonialism vs. savage paganism
  • soul/heart vs. mind/body
  • Kurtz vs. Marlowe
  • The Captain vs. Leggatt
  • id vs. ego vs. superego
  • women vs. men
  • children vs. adults
  • water vs. land
  • sanity vs. insanity
  • faith vs. fear
  • secrecy vs. sharing
  • individual vs. society
  • blindness vs. sight

From Heart of Darkness (dualities in bold):

...Soul! If anybody ever struggled with a soul, I am the man. And I wasn't arguing with a lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear—concentrated, it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yet clear; and therein was my only chance—barring, of course, the killing him there and then, which wasn't so good, on account of unavoidable noise. But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had—for my sins, I suppose—to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it—I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself. I kept my head pretty well; but when I had him at last stretched on the couch, I wiped my forehead, while my legs shook under me as though I had carried half a ton on my back down that hill. And yet I had only supported him, his bony arm clasped round my neck—and he was not much heavier than a child.

Read the study guide:
Heart of Darkness

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