The Eternal Flame

September 10, 2009 by annabellelow · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

As I was reading Heart of Darkness I noticed that the motif of the flame, light and darkness appeared several times. To Marlow, “the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze” (48). The figure of the harlequin seems conspicuously out of place in the dark narrative of Heart of Darkness. Marlow talks about envying his possession of “this modest and clear flame” (119), the harlequin’s single-minded devotion to Kurtz and to what he knew as right or wrong.

I would like to put forward the notion that this glow represents our attempt to explain, interpret and share all that we know. When you light a candle, the flame can only illuminate a small portion of darkness.  It is the glow of the flame that casts light on the things around us. The flame is the medium through which the Truth is represented and conveyed to the masses. In the case of Heart of Darkness, this would be Marlow’s storytelling. In the center of the flame, there exists a black dot that we cannot access without getting scathed by the flame itself. This black dot represents the Truth, which is eternally inaccessible and unknown to us. Therefore the quest for Truth in Heart of Darkness can be represented by the motif of the candle and the flame- the eternal flame.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • adelinekoh

    an excellent reading, and one which can be connected to conrad and symbolism. of course, you made me think of the bangles as well…