Symbolism in Heart of Darkness, Sula and The Things They Carried – Term Paper

Symbolism in Heart of Darkness, Sula and The Things They Carried

In both Books, the tone used is similar because in the three books, the tone used is not only similar but also has a hint of darkness. All the three books tend to share a common mood of hopelessness and darkness. This makes them at some points to one feel of delicate life is and how one should not give in the will of keeping going. This fact is very evident in the three books. In The Road for example, they had to keep on carrying the fire, in the Things They Had Carried on the other hand, one has to keep on his/ her wits even in the most horrifying and in the scariest times. In The Heart of Darkness, Marlow faces very many horrors on his journey making us to always question not only the morals but also the civilization of the Europeans.

The Symbol that comes in our minds concerning Heart of Darkness is fog. Fog is used here to represent darkness. It makes it very hard to distort and see ones vision. On his down to Congo, Marlow encounters fog. Fog here is meant to represent unseen and unknown danger. After this fog, together with his champions Marlow is attacked by natives. This unseen danger can as well refer to the danger of Kurtz, the everlasting impression that was on Marlow all the years after his return to Brussels.

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In The Heart of Darkness, Kathleen is used as a symbol. She is a representation of a reader who has got a capability of responding to the author. She is a recipient of war stories of OBrien just like us. However, unlike us, she can too affect OBrien as much as he too affects her. He gains some new experiences during the war when he thinks of how he would rely the story of a man who he had killed to this daughter of his. She also stands for the communication gap between the storyteller and the receiver of the story. When her father takes her to Vietnam so that she could have a better understanding of what he had to go through during the war, the only thing that finally resonates to her is the stink of the muck as well as the strangeness of the land. She in fact has no sense of the fields emotional significance to his father and this makes her have no understanding of what she is doing in Vietnam.

In Sula, there are various symbols that the author has used; one is that of a bird. Birds are found everywhere in Sula. These birds are often associated with specific characters. When we initially meet Rochelle, we find her wearing a canary yellow dress. She also has a glare of canary. Another symbol used in the narrative is that of flowers. When we again meet Rochelle, she notices that she smells like gardenias. She also has a birthmark that shaped like a rose and the source is the rose tattoo. Fire also has been used in the story as a symbol. It appears throughout the novel and leads to the death of Plum and Hannah. There are various possible meanings of fire. One of them is the idea of cleansing. Water has also been used as a symbol. It is mainly associated with death in the novel. For the case of Sula, water represents horrible drowning of the chicken. Fire might also be a cleansing force but water is used to engulf and consume it.

The symbol that is clearly evident in The Things They Carried is the man that was killed by OBrien. The way he keeps on remembering the man that he killed is s symbol of his guilt that he always has for having carried out the act of throwing the grenade. The way he always describe the injuries that this man that he killed had is also a good symbol of the brutality of the war itself. The war is brutal because one has killed other people so as to be able to survive.

Sula and Heart of Darkness are very similar in Heart Darkness; one is disconnected through embedded text. In The Road on the other hand, one is disconnected throughout the book because we never learn the names of the characters as well as the crucial information concerning their background. In both books, the syntax is very foggy and even empty at times.

Because of being disconnected in Heart of Darkness, the diction is made to be dead and also empty. The syntax is therefore not only choppy but also short. This therefore adds McCarthys tone conveying a dead world that is full of people who are the walking dead.

In The Heart of Darkness on the other hand, being disconnected tends to make the diction dark. It also gives one a sense of a doom that is impending. This therefore helps in conveying both the character and the tone that Conrad is trying to accomplish since by being disconnected the book looks both intense and horrific. not even the faintest sound of a kind could be heard. One looked on amazed and then begun suspecting that maybe you are deaf- and then suddenly the night came and then struck you blind also. At around three in the morning some large fish started leaping, the loud splash made me jump as if a gun had been fired. After the sun had risen, they were white fog that was not very warm but also very clammy. There was also more blinding than the night. It didnt drive or shift; it just remained there standing all around like something solid

he then walked in the gray light and then stood. He then for a brief moment saw the absolute truth about this world. The cold was relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness on the other hand was implacable. The blind dogs of the sun were in their running. There was the crushing vacuum of this universe. And somewhere there were two hunted animals that were trembling like ground foxes in their cover. The borrowed time, the borrowed eyes and the borrowed world had nothing but to sorrow it.

The genre evident in Heart of Darkness is fiction and horror. The structure of this narrative is a story within a story. Because of being distanced this way the book has got an ominous and almost lurid feel. The book is also linear the plot found throughout this book is moving in a straight line. The conflict evident here is whether Marlow will remain civilized before the eyes of the European society as he goes travelling deeper and deeper into the territory that is uncivilized. Marlow also seems to be having some internal conflicts between his morals and himself. He tends to have some internal conflicts with the social conflicts of his society of either being uncivilized or civilized. This duel narration of Heart of darkness gives one an ominous feeling. It makes the story look less reliable because one is made to think that the narrator is keeping some important information away from us.

The major symbol found in Sula is the birthmark in the eye of Sula. According to Shadrack, this birthmark looks like a tadpole, being the outcast in Medallion seems so fitting that he describes Sula using various terms. According to the people of the town on the other hand, this birthmark of Sula is seen as a sign of evil.

The genre found in The Things They Carried on the other hand is fiction. The narrative structure found here is that of a third person and first person. The first person point tends to change from OBrien to his friends in his platoon. This gives us a chance of connecting to each character and knowing their personalities. The major conflict found in this book is that of OBrien trying to learn how to deal with his experiences in the Vietnam War. In the beginning of the book, OBrien has got some internal conflicts and pressures from his society over whether he should go war or not. The narration of this book can be very serious at times but OBrien ramps up the emotion through painting visual images in our minds of the suspense and action.


Symbolism has been well used in the three stories. This has enabled these writers to bring out there themes clearly. The symbols have also enabled them to bring out some issues affecting the society in a simple language. In both books, we are being disconnected from the book so as the author can be able to bring out the characters in a better way. A good example of symbol simplifying issues is that of the guilt that OBrien always feels as a result of having killed a person during the Vietnam War.

Work Cited

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Internet resource.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. London: Bibliolis Books, 2010. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Tim O’brien’s the Things They Carried. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2005. Internet resource.