Chapter published in:Operationalizing Iconicity
Edited by Pamela Perniss, Olga Fischer and Christina Ljungberg
[Iconicity in Language and Literature 17] 2020
► pp. 184–198
Heart without ‘the’
An iconic reading of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
As one of the most intensely studied literary works, Heart of Darkness has been inviting diversified and conflicting readings for more than one hundred years. Politically or culturally oriented readings are overwhelmingly abundant and often contradict each other. In an effort to incorporate textual evidence as comprehensively and unbiasedly as possible, this paper will pay more attention to how the story is told than to what the story tells. This paper concentrates on the narrative frame. By comparing inner and outer narrative frames, I show that the eavesdropping scene (the inner frame) is a diagrammatic icon of the overall story (the outer frame). A point-by-point resemblance can be constructed between these two frames, in which a quasi-storytelling is set up in a dark world full of voices with rare communication between speakers and listeners. In both frames, Kurtz’s voice, which is embedded within voices of others, can be heard, but “that man” (p. 37) is not fully identified formally and the mysteries surrounding Kurtz are never clearly revealed. The frames are proliferated only to accentuate its hollow core. The inner meaning is pointed at but cannot be pinned down.
Published online: 13 May 2020
Conrad, J., & Page, N.
Gaylin, A. E.
Guetti, J. L.
Miller, J. H.