In this excerpt from the novel, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the author effectively portrays the Congo River as an inhospitable location unfit for human existence. Through Conrad’s diction, syntax and detail of the environment, the author reveals a great deal of psychological stress, due to the hostile environment, which leads to physical anguish. Through the author’s usage of oppressive diction, the author illustrates a hostile environment where society and humanity are devoid, and in effect expresses how the environment dominates Conrad’s mental security and ultimately leads to his physical devastation.
The author describes the air of the environment as “warm, thick, heavy and sluggish”, thus accounting a physical stress that he was forced to endure; however this physical stress takes a toll on his psychological health, claiming that the environment “cuts off” the past and takes you “far away – in another existence. ” If one looses their sense of the past, then as a result, the present no longer exists. It seems as though the “overwhelming realities” of the environment that the author has been subjected to, has effectively undermined his subconscious, indicating a serious psychological degradation.
The passage’s syntax indicates a great deal of information regarding the author’s demeanor during this pressing situation. It becomes evident that the passage is written in the first voice, relatively late into the excerpt; “I got used…I had to keep…” The passage began as a descriptive analysis of a heartless yet powerful environment, however as the passage progresses, the author recounts the overall effect that the environment had on him, illustrating a ruthless and distressing ordeal.
The usage of anaphora in these sentences reveals this sensation of merciless torture, a record and list of all of the grueling aspects that he faced: “I had no time…I watched… I shaved” This anaphora shows the author’s loss of control, fear and overall despair that he witnessed and suffered from, all representing conditions that lead to the author’s psychological fall; with this mental collapse, the uthor finds himself in a critical physical state. The detailed personification and description of the river and the environment surrounding it, illustrate the foreboding and powerful elements of this location, something that proves to exert a great stress psychologically and physically on the author. The author uses personification to illustrate the environment as being alive and hostile, describing trees as “kings” and wooded islands as “mobs”.
Repeatedly, the author claims that this environment, which is meant to be a noisy and thriving area, is “silent”, another indication of psychological despair. The author sees the environment as an enemy, perceiving himself as an intruder or trespasser into a world where humans are not meant to be found, thus proving the author’s loss of his perception of reality; a psychological toll that exerts serious stress on one’s physical state.
The diction, syntax and detail of the environment used in this passage illustrate an extreme and quick degradation of psychological and physical control with the author, as he finds himself in a world that he considers hostile, dangerous and inhospitable for humanity. As he loses control of his mind and body, Conrad fixates on his surrounding environment, and reveals that he feels that this world now controls him.