Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – A Modernist NovelModernism began as a movement in that late 19th, early 20th centuries. Artists started to feel restricted by the styles and conventions of the Renaissance period. Thusly came the dawn of Modernism in many different forms, ranging from Impressionism to Cubism.
In order to explore new venues of creativity Modernists tinkered with the perception of reality. During the Renaissance, the depiction of a subject was very straight forward. A painting had to look like what it represented. The truth was absolute and right and wrong were clearly defined. For Modernists, the world is much more obscure. In Impressionist paintings, lines are not definite and things tend to blur together. Faces usually do not differentiate one person from another.
Cubism takes the opposite route for the same effect. Solid lines are drawn, but the painting itself is usually more abstract (as with Picasso). At times it can be difficult to discern what some paintings are supposed to represent. Bright, vivid colors infuse the pieces with more passion. The contrast between those not well defined objects and the punch of emotion gives cubism its personality and vitality.
Many believed that Modernist works were not “art” because they did not always look like real life. But what is “real life”? A new outlook on reality was taken by Modernists. What is true for one person at one time is not true for another person at a different time. Experimentation with perspective and truth was not confined to the canvas; it influenced literary circles as well.
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a great example of a Modernist novel because of its general obscurity. The language is thick and opaque. The novel is littered with words such as: inconceivable, inscrutable, gloom. Rather than defining characters in black and white terms, like good and bad, they entire novel is in different shades of gray. The unfolding of events takes the reader between many a foggy bank; the action in the book and not just the language echoes tones of gray.
In Modernist literature, much like painting, there is experimentation with form: narration style, tone, plot line. Instead of having Kurtz tell his story, or Marlow recite the tale of his journey, the actual narrator in the Heart of Darkness is an unknown passenger on the Nellie.