Impressionism and Symbolism in Heart of Darkness

  • Ian Watt


The Preface to The Nigger of theNarcissus’ is usually read as an impressionist document; but much of Conrad’s critical position there is also consonant with that of the Symbolists — it is, for instance, very close to Verlaine’s ‘De la musique avant toute chose’ (Art poétique)in making it the supreme aim of literary style to achieve ‘the magic suggestiveness of music’. Conrad also wrote in a letter that in The Nigger of theNarcissus’ he had tried ‘to get through the veil of details at the essence of life’ (27 January 1897);1 and this avowal of a transcendental perspective later recurs even more explicitly: ‘How fine it could be…’ Conrad wrote to Ford, ‘if the idea had a substance and words a magic power, if the invisible could be snared into a shape.’2


Symbolic Meaning Trading Company Usual Story Literary Style Symbolic Image 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    G. Jean-Aubry, Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters, 2 vols. (London, 1927), I, 200.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jocelyn Baines, Joseph Conrad: A Critical Biography (London, 1960), p. 223; November 1898.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Jacques Letheve, Impressionistes et Symbolistes devant la presse (Paris, 1959), P. 63.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    E. H. Gombrich, The Story of Art, 12th ed. (London, 1972 ), P. 406.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Frank Kermode, The Romantic Image (London, 1957), pp. 112–13.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Robert O. Evans, ‘Conrad’s Underworld’, Modern Fiction Studies, 2 (1956), 56–62.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    G. Jean-Aubry, Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters, 2 vols. (London, 1929), II, 205.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Watt

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations