Nashville Great Books Discussion Group

A reader's group devoted to the discussion of meaningful books.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Conrad's Heart of Darkness

What makes us the way we are? Is it society with all of its rules and customs, or is it DNA, something primeval in the blood? There is a tendency among civilized people to think that philosophy, religion, or education will provide  answers to all those troubling questions about justice, fate, or good and evil. On the contrary, Joseph Conrad seems to believe that we, ourselves, are nothing more than a product of nature, with all those animal instincts still dormant within our soul. Can education make us better? Perhaps. But the idea that moral progress is a steady climb upwards from the mud and filth and brutal indifference of nature is not very reassuring. For every good impulse we have needs to be ratified daily, and blessed with the knowledge that we are still just one small step from the darkness composing our primal birth. Wisdom is the recognition that no society can ever banish completely the origin of our species. We must live with the knowledge of that inner demon and do what we can to contain it. Otherwise, like Kurtz, we will surely succumb to that primeval call which ends only in darkness.


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