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Comparison of different aspects in 'Red Heart', 'Heart of Darkness' and 'Lord of the Flies'

Updated on September 25, 2014

Dear Book Magazine,

I have just finished Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Red Heart by Victor Kelleher and Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and though I thought all the novels were insightful, I am still unclear on a few things.

I know that those novels are supposed to show the consequences that a lack of restraint will bring as well as how the darkness inside of all human hearts will bring about the downfall of humanity, but I just donât see it.

Please help me Book Magazine,

Confused.

Which is the better book?

Which book is the most insightful of them all?

Lord of The Flies
Lord of The Flies

Dear Confused,

You are absolutely correct that all the novels you mentioned are insightful. They are all discerning into the darkness that lurks within every single human heart as well as the consequences of a lack of restraint. All those novels also show that both these things may ultimately lead to the downfall of humanity.

Let’s start with how a lack of restraint will lead to devastation. This is definitely shown in Lord of the Flies, Red Heart and Heart of Darkness. The antagonist in Conrad’s novel was Colonel Kurtz. He set himself up as a God-like figure among the natives and had complete control over them. The Russian Harlequin said that Kurtz “enlarged my mind” which demonstrates his forceful power as well as the fact the he was admired by the people he ruled over. With no one from The Company to check up on him, Kurtz instructs the ‘animals’ on what to do and they carry out his every desire. He even participates enthusiastically in "savage" rites, and it's hinted at that he may have become a cannibal. Similarly in Red Heart, the lack of restraint that was enforced upon Jack caused him to become involved in savage and wild activities such as the ritual dancing by the fires and also the heads on the sticks that fenced his station. The choir boys in Lord of the Flies were the quintessence in portraying the results of a lack of restraint. With no adults or any other authoritarian figures to keep control, the boys also became savage and wild. They nearly burned down the forest, they painted themselves like warriors, they stole Piggy’s glasses and taunted him and the culmination of this savagery was their brutal murder of Simon. In all three novels, a lack of restraint had devastating effects.

You also mentioned in your letter that you were confused about the meaning behind Hearts of Darkness. Well, Joseph Conrad was one of the first known authors to write about this concept, the concept that everybody has two sides to them- good and evil, and the heart has the capacity to do both. He pioneered the idea that lurking inside everybody is a ‘Heart of Darkness’; an evil core. And in some people, this Heart of Darkness might reveal itself more prominently than in others. Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness that “The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it”. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz had clearly stepped outside the bounds of the accepted European society and allied himself with a moral code of an entirely different standing. He operated, completely controlled by his Heart of Darkness. He was a “shadow darker than the shadow of the night.”

Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary (Penguin Classics)
Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary (Penguin Classics)

The structure of this novel is intriguing and I suspect it's a large reason why this is such a classic.

 
Lord of the Flies (Penguin Drop Caps)
Lord of the Flies (Penguin Drop Caps)

The novel moves very quickly and it's rather short (202 pages in my copy.) You'll be immersed in the varying characters and degrees of humanity that they present. Keep in mind, that although Golding's view on humanity may seem very pessimistic, he's writing from his perspective on human nature, something that he witnessed first hand during WWII.

 

In Conrad’s work, he repetitively used the motif of darkness to try to explain his concept of the Heart of Darkness. Almost everything in the novella was associated with or described as being filled with darkness. Africa was the ‘dark center’, Brussels was ‘gloomy’, Kurtz spoke ‘darkly’, as did the manager, and on his journey down the river Marlow’s steamboat was immersed in an “impenetrable fog”. Kurtz himself was the symbol of the dark side of man, Marlow being the symbol of the man who has a Heart of Darkness, but is not overtaken by it. Marlow “was allowed to draw back his ever hesitating foot.” Constant reinforcement of darkness throughout the novella by means of figurative language and other language devices helps to reiterate to the reader the salient them of Hearts of Darkness.

In Red Heart also, Jack Curtis was the epitome of a Heart of Darkness. He was ruthless in his quest for the eternal reign of his bloodline. He ordered Nat to choose between which of his friends he was going to shoot, a choice that no reasonable person would give another. He shot the girl that killed Gus and when Nat or any of his friends disobeyed him, he locked them up in cages and left them for the leeches and crocs to feed on. No self respecting rational person would ever have committed these atrocities; it was his Heart of Darkness that had taken over him.

In both cases of Kurtz and Jack, they were described as normal people before their encounters with the rivers. Kurtz had a fiancé who believed in “all of his promise, and all of his greatness, his generous mind, his noble heart…” What Marlow witnessed of Kurtz out in the African Congo was everything but promising, great, generous and noble. The Congo had brought out his Heart of Darkness and changed him in ways that Marlow found humanly inexplicable. Similarly, Jack Curtis had a family back when he could have been described as ‘normal’, but the Heartland changed him also in unfathomable ways.

Lord of the Flies is another excellent example of the effect that a Heart of Darkness has on a society. Choir boys are typically associated with being holy, good and pure, but when they were left to their own devices on the island, their Hearts of Darkness took over completely leading them to inflict pain, suffering and death on the other characters. Golding used many techniques to demonstrate his views on Hearts of Darkness to his readers. The symbolism behind ‘the Beast’ is probably the best example. The Beast, which is what instigates the chaos on the island, is Golding’s symbol of the Heart of Darkness. When Simon says, “What I mean is . . . Maybe it’s only us . . .” he is exactly right. The Beast, the Heart of Darkness, is not a material object to be hunted; it lies deep within the boys themselves. The ‘Lord of the Flies’, yet another symbol of Hearts of Darkness speaks to Simon saying “Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you...” This confirms that a Heart of Darkness rests in all human beings and cannot be destroyed.

So Confused, in conclusion I now hope you can clearly see how the combination of a Heart of Darkness with a lack of restraint will ultimately lead to the downfall of humanity. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s lack of restraint and his Heart of Darkness led him to commit savage acts including the placing of skulls on stakes, the mistreatment of his native followers and then all his evil acts culminated in his own death. Similarly in the appropriation of Heart of Darkness, Red Heart, Jack’s Heart of Darkness in combination with his lack of restraint led to the shooting of Pete, torture of Nat, Irene and Pete, cannibalistic desires of his tribe, the death of Dell and then ultimately his own death. And finally in Lord of the Flies, the lack of restraint imposed upon the boys and their Hearts of Darkness that emerged on the island lead to the savage deaths of Simon and Piggy, and nearly resulted in Ralph’s death, who was only saved due to the presence of the adult naval officer.

I hope this answered all your questions,

Editor of Book Magazine.

What's your thoughts on these amazing books?

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very interesting to read, keep on writing!!