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An Ecocritical Reading of Heart of Darkness

Author LiuLiRui
Tutor ZhangLi
School North China Electric Power University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Conrad Ecocriticism natural ecology social ecology spiritual ecology
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), one of the greatest English novelists at the end of19th century, begins to write after more-than-twenty-year career as a sailor. He is famous for his writing of sea adventure. Heart of Darkness is his most famous novel, based primarily on his experiences in1890in Congo. First published in1899as a serial in Blackwood’s Magazine, it became extensively influential during subsequent decades. Most of the readers have set a high value on this novel. Many scholars have made extensive and deep research into it from different angles, such as from philosophical, psychological, political perspectives and so on. Nevertheless, people begin to review and reinterpret Conrad and his novels from the perspective of Eco-criticism since the Eco-criticism came out in the last century. This thesis attempts to study Heart of Darkness from three dimensions, namely, natural ecology, social ecology and spiritual ecology, and to explore Conrad’s ecological consciousness. It is hoped that this thesis will be beneficial for further study of Heart of Darkness.The present paper is divided into four parts. The first part is the introduction which gives a brief survey of the author Conrad and his works, as well as the development of the ecological criticism. The second part is the main part:the first section makes a discussion of the natural ecological view shown in Heart of Darkness. In the novel, the author describes the ecological disaster at the end of the19th century in Congo, which shows his worry about ecological crisis and severe condemnation on people’s upsetting destructive behaviors. The author gives a hint that ecological crisis is due to human modern civilization. He thinks human progress destroys nature, breaches the harmony between man and nature. The second section shows that human modern civilization not only destroys the beautiful nature, but also causes the hierarchical differentiation of society and thus alienates the relationship between man and man. With the development of capitalist industrial civilization, in order to pursue profit maximization, people become greedy and selfish; the relationship between man and man becomes indifferent and cruel. As a writer, who is full of ecological idea, by Curlz’s "Horror! Horror!" in Heart of Darkness, Conrad advocates our society should be harmonious and peaceful like nature. The third section tells us that the changes of man-and-nature relationship and man-and-man relationship not only harm nature and society, but also hurt the human spirit. In Heart of Darkness, the imbalance of natural ecology and social ecology and the damage of spiritual ecology develop simultaneously. Conrad exposes the imbalance of human spirit through the description of the characters’distorted spirit and expresses his hope for harmonious spiritual ecology. The third part makes an analysis of Conrad’s ecological consciousness in Heart of Darkness, as well as Conrad’s ecological ideal. The last part is the summing-up part. Strictly speaking, although Conrad is not an ecological writer, in his novel, he makes Heart of Darkness get the ecological awareness from the relationship between human and nature, which reflects the ecological consciousness of Conrad.This thesis takes on a further research from the ecocritical perspective by analyzing natural ecology, social ecology and spiritual ecology in the novel. From the research, we can understand Conrad’s advanced ecological awareness. Through the analysis, it is found that Heart of Darkness is a great work full of ecological ideas.

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