Many literary critics have argued over time about the nature of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: is it a work of Gothicism or not? According to Campbell, Gothic novels are made to create terror and to “open fiction to the realm of the irrational – perverse impulses, nightmarish terrors, obsessions – lying beneath the surface of the civilized mind,” (Campbell). With these points in mind, it’s clear that readers can assume Conrad’s famous novel is a work of Gothicism, specifically, a gothic horror.
One of the major gothic aspects visible in Heart of Darkness is the clear gothic atmosphere. One of the most prominent examples of the darkness of the atmosphere is in the opening of the novel: “The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth” (Conrad 2). Here, Conrad contrasts the neutral sea with the tainted land, now dark due to the inherent evilness of man. The atmosphere touches on the perverse impulses that man has, which are actually evil, initially creating an aura of Gothicism. The forest shown in the novel is also a major representation of the Gothic movement, explaining it as “motionless in the moonlight was like a rioting-invasion of soundless life…to sweep every little man of us out of his little existence” (Conrad 79). The forest, in a sense, holds the secrets of Kurtz and his weaknesses in regards to his “perverse impulses,” one of the main Gothic characteristics explained previously. Other examples of Gothic elements in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness are the fact that Kurtz sees a ghost, a “nightmarish terror” Campbell discussed in her explanation of Gothic novels.
Although only a few examples of the Gothicism of Heart of Darkness were touched on, Gothic elements are extremely visible many more times throughout the novel, making Conrad’s famous work a clear piece of Gothic horror.
Campbell, Donna M. " Gothic, Novel, and Romance: Brief Definitions." Washington State University. N.p., 3 July 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness.NY, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1988.
Lipka, Jennifer. "The Horror! The Horror!: Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness as a Gothic Novel."Web. 8 Mar. 2015.