Looking Beneath the Surface, Heart of Darkness

Conard in his story, The Heart of Darkness represents several themes in it, however, the most dominant theme of the story seems everything has a surface or outlook and an inner or inside look and that the two are quite different from each other. In fact, the name of the story i.e. The Heart of Darkness itself represents a look beneath the surface, where Dark is an outlook bearing lot different things in the its heart. Several other clues are there in the story which refer to the looking beneath the surface.

Fog in the story shows that it blurring the view hiding the waters and the storms ahead. As the sailor moves, he can only see the fog which is like a surface to the outer view, and which does not let the sailor see what is beyond or inside the fog. The sailor only comes to know about the harshness of the weather and the waters, as he moves forward. The author builds the story around two major roles, Marlow and Kurtz to depict how colonist enterprisers oppress the natives in Africa. Pretending to be the will-wishers of the natives, the imperialists were not only unhesitant in exploiting the hard work and innocence of the natives but were brutal towards them putting them to over work, with almost free labor work, in extremely  bad conditions (Conard, 2008). Although the colonists claimed to be trading with Congo for the betterment of the natives by the so-called improvement of their quality of life, however, in fact the trade was only and only intended to exploit the natives and get the maximum benefits out of their hard work. This hypocrisy of imperialism as observed by Marlow during his journey till the inner station, in the form of miseries, slaveries, and inhumane incidents, shows that looking beneath the surface was a total different motive of the imperialists. The journey of Marlow provides a look beneath the surface. Story shows that when humans get into power and entitlements, they can be extremely hypocrites where they will shows one thing at the surface, while there will be completely different intentions beneath the surface. The role of Kurtz in the story is another example of the difference between above the surface and beneath the surface looks. Kurtz pretends to the be the god of the time and establishes a position within the local community through his inhumane methods, and by cutting heads of the poor and displaying them on the fence as Marlow and his crew see when they reach the inner station. The role of Kurtz shows that he has no value for humanity and well-being of the people, but uses his power and entitlements to take as much advantage of the people as he can. The role of Marlow shows a person who is interested in the outer look or surface of things, however the story takes him through the voyage during which he observes all beneath the surface about the powerful as well as the weaker people.

The Metamorphosis shows another aspect of looking beneath the surface. This story shows how people’s attitudes and behaviors change towards their previously loved ones when they get in trouble or when they are unable to provide material support. The story shows that the love and affection of the close friends, family, and relatives is directed by the ability of Gregor to provide the financial support to them. Although main character of the story and the incident that happens to him seems unrealistic yet, it very beautifully represents the difference between the outlook and the inside of the friends and relatives’ love and affection. Gregor who was a good earner and a supporter and lover towards his parents and sister, suddenly turns into an animal, while his mind still works as a human being. This transformation changes his life in the worst way and he loses all the love and affection of this family. The same parents and sister who once were very much in love with him and were taking care of him not only become indifferent towards him but at one stage, they start hating him (Kafka, 2003). At one point in the story, Gregor wants to come back to show his love and attachments to his parents and sister and wants to listen to the sweet melody that his sister used to play for him, but before he could proceed, he hears his sister’s hatred towards him. She says that the family should get rid of him as he is no more a human being and there is no place for an animal in the family. This is how he looks beneath the surface and find what were the motives and facts behind all the love his parents and sister used to show towards him.

Both the stories are pointing towards the fact how things can be different in terms of the outlook and from the inside. An insider look always finds that the things are not always the same as they look, but behind every love and affection, there is a motive that directs these affections and attachments. Whether a person gets into power, or loses power, it helps him identify who has the real love with towards him and who was just pretending to love. All the facts all beneath the surface and circumstances come in life which helps humans to look beneath the surface.


Conrad J. (1982). Heart of Darkness and the Secret Sharer. New York, NY: Bantam Classics.

Kafka F. (1972). The Metamorphosis. New York, NY: Bantam Classics.