An Examination of the Main Characters in Heart of Darkness With Freud’s Theory


校园英语·下旬 2017年4期


【Abstract】Joseph Conrad, one of the most outstanding English novelists in the 20th century, was born in Poland. Conrad began his literary career by writing short stories. The story is told by Marlowe, Conrads famous narrator, whose task is to make a voyage to the inland of Africa through the Congo River and bring Mr.Kurtz, a sick ivory trader, back to Belgium.The journey that Marlow has been thought is so horrible that it has changed Marlow into a different man.After studying this novel with the help of Freuds theory, we can find the darkness as well as the beauty in ones character. This thesis analyzes the characteristics of Marlow and Kurtz in three aspects through a number of practical cases.

【Key words】Marlow; dark; lust; Freuds theory

1. The ID Part

Sigmund Freuds id part is the source of the motive force behind the pleasure principle. Id is the hardest part of characteristics for people to control, which consists of all innate impulsive. It does not depend on logic, moral and value. The principle of id is just to pursue happiness.

At the beginning, Marlow just want to be a rich man, which can make him happy. He tried everything to get what he really want, so he asked for help from his aunt. In his eyes, if he could be a captain of the boat, he would gain wealth like other rich man. When he was a child, from his view about the earth, we can learn that the id part began when he was born. According to Freuds id part, people are eager to pursue happiness when they are born. From the id part, we can find the darkness of the imperialists. The cruel imperialists made the blacks to be slaves. Also the cruel imperialists pressed and exploit them, by which they can be wealth and their id part can be satisfied.With the promotion of id part, they began to do some inhuman things towards people lived in Africa.

2. The Ego Part

From the Latin word for “I”, the ego is the part of mind which reacts to external reality and which a person thinks of as the ‘self. The ego tells us what is ‘real. It is practical and rational, and is involved in decision making. In ego part, people began to realize something. Thats to say, they will form the value of the world.

During the voyage, he witnessed the “civilization” of European, which made him disgusting. The tortured black men came into his eyes firstly. “They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their hands, and the clink kept time with their footsteps.” With the help of ego part, Marlow began to think. He tried to find the characteristics of human beings. Marlow was alone on this voyage. He was doing adventures, which can help him to be mature. Sometimes, he felt afraid. But there was no way for him to escape. He had no choice but to move on. The ego part teach us to realize the characteristics of human beings, and help us to remedy our defects. With his ego part, Marlow try to think the fate of Europeans who lived in the Congo River. He felt shivered. Where there is oppression, there is resistance.

3. The Super-Ego Part

The super-ego gives us our sense of right and wrong, pride and guilt. It monitors behavior, decides what is acceptable and controls taboo. The way that super-ego works is in a sense opposite to that of the id.

Marlow depicted the first meeting scene. Marlow saw him open his mouth wide-it gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he had wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him. In Marlows eyes, Kurtz was really a devil from the hell. Kurtz enjoyed to be alone, so he can possessed wealth by himself. The super-ego part expose the darkness of ones character and guide people to do the right things. When people stayed in this stage, they had their moral standards. To be kind and to do good things for others. On the way to the Congo River, Marlow changed a lot, especially his psychological world. People are easily to become the person like Kurtz. Luckily, Marlow refused to do that. After Kurtzs death, Marlow wanted to have a good rest and escaped Kurtzs world.

4. Conclusion

By reading this novel, our psychological world has also changed and it seems that we are Marlows accompanies.With the guide of Marlow, we find the darkness of ones characteristics. From Marlows experience, we should learn to be brave. Face with you inner world, providing it with nutritious materials timely. Keep away with evil thoughts. Only in this way, can we meet happiness. We also need to learn to be content with what we have gained. To be thankful. Life is full of surprise, we will enjoy one day.


[1]Peng Na,Yan Xu.Heart of Darkness[M].Qingdao Press,2003.




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