By Sarah Ropp
From the Author: This is an analytical paper about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness written for Penny Cordish’s fall 2008 English 200 course, "Close Reading, Critical Writing." The assignment asked us to identify a single rhetorical choice made by the author and discuss his motives for making it and its contribution to the work as a whole. As a student of languages, the methods of naming and labeling used in Heart of Darkness by Marlow, the main character, other storytellers in the novella, and Conrad himself fascinated me: I interpreted Marlow’s struggle to find a satisfying connection between labels and the people they are supposed to describe as Conrad’s frustrated lament about the inadequacy of language in general to ever truly capture the essence of experience. Moreover, Conrad’s ultimate suggestion that a storyteller may attain a degree of evocative integrity by abandoning the attempt to contain the "essence" and endeavoring rather to describe its ambience was endlessly exciting to me as both a reader and a writer. Finally, the idea of using ambiguity to make a crystal-clear point about the virtues of deliberate ambiguity tickled me; it was a complicated but really fun paper to write.
From the Faculty Nominator: Sarah Ropp wrote this essay as a final research paper in a gateway course to the English major called "Close Reading and Critical Writing." Her study of the significance of the role of names, naming, and the lack thereof in Joseph’s Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness is an excellent example of both skills. She pays close attention to the details and language of the text itself and asks important questions about their implications. Moreover, the breadth and depth of her research place her argument within the context of an on-going critical conversation. Ultimately, her reasoned and well-supported interpretation adds to our understanding of a rather mysterious work of literature.
Read: Getting to the Nut of Names in Heart of Darkness
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