Allegory: a form of extended metaphor in a narrative, they have meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has a moral, social, religious, or political significance. The idea of savagery is hidden beneath the literal of both Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and William Goldings Lord of the Flies. These are both examples of allegories which can be read through a literal sense or an allegorical reading.
Heart of Darkness explores issues surrounding the ideas of imperialism. It is through Marlows journey the responder is given an insight into the scenes of torture and slavery encountered by Marlow and in essence, Conrad himself. Conrad uses symbolism throughout his novella as a device of allegory. Conrad uses Marlow as an agent of allegory through whom a post modern responder can read this text as a statement on colonisation and its dramatic affect on both the Europeans and Africans.
Conrad uses the biblical allusion of the whited sepulchre as a symbol for the facade of Belgium which could be symbolic of Belgiums official purpose in the Congo, bringing civilisation and faith to the savages, which was a contradiction to the true happenings, it is documented that Belgian colonies were notorious for cruelty towards the people of Africa for only the purpose of a profit To make money, of course, what do you think? This is reinforced by the fates, the two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool. Conrad also uses this imagery to foreshadow that he was going hell. Conrad offers a harsh picture of the colonial enterprise, and the idea of people believing a modified version of the truth, shielding themselves from harsh and unkind realities, presented though Marlows conversation with his auntie; weening those ignorant millions from their horrid ways Conrad uses irony to present the aunts typically European view of colonisation.
Conrad frequently juxtaposes light and darkness not only to contrast the civilised European society and the savage world of Africa, but to represent good and evil. It can be seen as ironic that the Europeans considered their interference in Africa good when in retrospect they were blackening the continent with greed and a fight for power.
At an allegorical level a 21st century responder could have a psychological reading of this novella, as it can be seen as a journey into the recesses of the human mind. Demonstrated through Conrads venture into the mind of Marlow as well as reflecting the mental state of Kurtz constantly. Conrad uses techniques such as the characterization of Kurtz. Conrad uses him as a symbol of the psychological impact of colonial barbarity and isolation. In Heart of Darkness, madness is closely linked to colonisation and the mental disintegration of those who have travelled to the Congo. Kurtz last words the horror, the horror can be interpreted through a psychological reading as Kurtzs realisation of the true darkness and evil in a mans heart as well as the horrendous ways in which he had treated the Africans.
Psychologically, madness is hinted to in the doctors office before Marlow sets off to Africa. Conrad not only includes this because men who went to Africa were tested for insanity before they left which deliberately foreshadows the internal change in Marlow as a direct result of what he would witness in Africa.
As an allegory, Heart of Darkness can be seen as both a critique of the colonisation of Africa by European countries, but also an allegory for the concept of each person having an element of savagery; a heart of darkness within them.
Similar to Heart of Darkness, a post modern responder can read William Goldings Lord of the Flies as an allegorical exploration of the concept that in the absence of civilisation, men will revert back to savagery, resulting in greed and an overwhelming desire for power. This exploration is hidden beneath the narrative of a group of young boys who are deserted on an island.
In the first chapter of the novel, the boys realise that they are trapped, and make an attempt at civilising the island and bringing order to the situation. Symbolically they elect a leader, reflecting their familiarity with the order of society Golding uses the conch shell as a symbol for order and control. However as the novel progresses the boys destroy the conch showing the abandonment of government, order and laws. Through this allegory Golding shows the fragile nature of government due to human beings inner lust for power.
Golding also uses the signal fire as a symbol for civilisation. When the boys arrive on the island their main priority is being rescued and returning to society so they light a signal fire in order to attract attention. The fire becomes a barometer for the boys connection to civilisation. For a small duration, the boys maintain the fires presence showing their desire to return to civilisation. As the fire begins diminishes out the responder realises that the boys have entirely lost sight of their desire to return civilisation
A 21st Century responder can read Lord of the Flies allegorically through a psychological lens as Golding shows the descent into savagery and rejection of civilisation experienced by the boys. Golding uses allegory in an attempt to explain the human psyche
His mind was crowded with memories; ... knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, imposed their will upon it, Golding uses this imagery to give insight into the mind of Jack in the moment he leaves behind civilisation and gives in to his heart of darkness through the first successful killing of a pig. In the opening chapters, Golding presents Jack as intimidated and scared of the idea of killing a pig as he is repulsed by the idea of blood. Golding juxtaposes this attitude with Jacks mental state after the symbolic event of his first kill. This is not only a representation of Jacks descent into savagery but is also symbolic of his loss of innocence and rejection of the common values of society.
As a 21st century responder the main allegory of Lord of the Flies is Civilisation vs. Savagery, which can also be associated with the commonly used allegory, Good vs. Evil. Lord of the Flies points out all the flaws of mankind in one novel.
Both Heart of Darkness and Lord of the Flies have a strong allegorical focus on the human mind, its affect to being taken out of its social context as well as concept of Civilisation vs. Savagery. Conrad and Golding based their narratives upon personal experience and their opinion of the workings of the human mind, concentrating on the primitive impulse residing in each individual.