World Masterpieces II – Essay #2 – Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Eliot’s The Waste Land
You will be writing a paper of 800-1000 words on one of the topics provided below. It is also possible for you to come up with a topic of your own based on one of these two texts provided you have it approved by me in advance. Mainly, I want to make sure that you have chosen a topic that is specific enough to write a paper of this length, while not being so narrow (or obvious) as to not give you an interesting argument to put forth. Another possibility is to use one of the topics I’ve provided below, but to change it somewhat to reflect more accurately an idea you want to pursue in your paper. Again, if you go this route, please run your thesis by me before doing any major work on your paper.
As with your first paper assignment, you may earn extra credit through the use of a secondary source. Acceptable sources are academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles (most of which are available online). All documentation must follow MLA guidelines for both the in-text citation and the Works Cited page that will be on a separate page following your essay.
The paper format I would like you to follow can be found at
and also at
It includes double-spacing throughout the paper, 12-pt. Times New Roman font, and 1-inch margins. These links give the correct MLA format as well as explanations of what each part of your paper should accomplish.
Don’t forget to use your primary source effectively in your paper as well. A well-chosen quote from the novella or poem can have a powerful impact on a point you are arguing in your essay. On the other hand, quoting material can also be overdone. The quotes in your paper should not overpower your own argument. Try to avoid quoting long passages; there is an art to extricating just the right part of a passage to create the best impact in your paper.
1) Write a thorough analysis of what you believe Conrad to be putting forth as the “heart of darkness” in his novella. You may want to think about the context of the colonial period that was at its height at the time he wrote this story and the justifications for colonizing other countries. You may also consider this from a psychoanalytic view point of the main characters in the story. Think about what Marlow “admires” in Kurtz and what he deplores.
If Conrad uses the metaphor of a nut to describe Marlow’s experience of life (remember, the narrator states that Marlow wasn’t intent on getting to the hidden kernel, but found meaning in the enveloping external shell), what might Marlow have discovered about what is at the center, or heart, of things? How does this relate to the heart of darkness?
2) We identified one of the themes in Heart of Darkness as a tension between the idea of purpose and meaning as opposed to meaninglessness and futility.
Write an essay that explores how Conrad develops this theme in the novel and what you believe his message is about how we create meaning.
3) If Eliot’s The Waste Land is seen as giving us portraits of ideas or entities such as women, human connection, or the loss of desire; pick one of these ideas or entities that we have identified in class and write an analysis of how he “paints” this portrait.
4) Give your best interpretation of what the wasteland is that Eliot describes. What does the metaphor of a land stricken by draught symbolize? You must stay focused on the poem and cite examples to support your argument.
5) Write a thorough analysis of how Eliot uses landscapes in The Waste Land and how these descriptions fit with the title of the poem.