Archimedes Teacher Training Institute, university of Utrecht Course: Institute: Highlights of English Literature Essay on the role of women in Heart of Darkness by J. Conrad Assignment: Lovers In a Male-Dominated World: the Witch and the Widow ‘The last word he pronounced – was your name. ‘ It is ironic that this utter lie to a woman concludes the story of a man’s Journey into the dark African jungle. Marrow, the story protagonist, is the one who lies to the fiance©e of the infamous Mr. Kurt, he reason for his African adventure.
In Joseph Concord’s novella Heart of Darkness (1899), women are scarce. Men drive the story and the two women portrayed In the story are sketchy, nameless characters who only serve as female prototypes: the Witch and the Widow. Both have been lovers of the story’s pivotal Mr. Kurt and symbolize his transformation. The first woman that appears is the Witch – traditionally an unmarried woman outside the normal structure of society, a priestly woman who possesses unique knowledge of medicine and the supernatural. She comes on stage when the story Is well underway. Until then, only men have played a role In the tale: sailors, company officials, soldiers, station managers, explorers, servants and other staff. The Witch belongs to the tribe where Mr. Kurt ruthlessly ruled. When he is taken away on Marrows steamer, she stands at the river bank: Along the lighted shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman. (… ) bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men, that hung about her, glittered and trembled at every step. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent. Her long shadow fell to the water’s edge.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
Her face had a tragic and fleece aspect of wild sorrow and of dumb pain. ‘ (up. 75-76 Penguin Classics) These words suggest she was Kurt’ lover, but nothing beyond her awe-inspiring presence is revealed. Apart from the powerful African Witch, there is the brittle European Widow: two opposites that symbolize the former Kurt (nurtured by European civilization) and the new Kurt (transformed by African Nature). This black-clad woman also had an amorous relationship with Kurt, but she is completely unaware of Quartz’s ramification and new love.
She was engaged to him, waiting for his return and hoping to get married to him one day. Little did she know of his intentions to stay in the Jungle forever, had Marrow not got him out. She is presented as the prototypical widow that only exists because of her loss: ‘She came forward, all in black, with a pale since his death, more than a year since the news came; she seemed as though she would remember and mourn forever. ‘ (p. 92) We can conclude that males reign supreme in Concord’s novella.
They rule the world and they conquer the dark interior of the African continent. The prisms inter pares of these conquerors is Mr. Kurt, who nearly gets a mythical status in Marrows imagination. The two women that love Mr. Kurt are the only women that play a role, and they are presented as symbols: the one a strong African Witch, the other a weak European Widow, enforcing the two-sided personality of Mr. Kurt and his personal battle between the dark powers of Africa against the ‘enlightening civilization of Europe.