An important aspect of any story is the setting that the reader can imagine. The atmosphere that is created, very much adds to the general theme and the relationship between the characters and the surrounding environment.
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“Heart of Darkness” and “The Lamp at Noon”, are stories where the setting plays a great role in the development of events and delivers a tone that is very unique and specific to the different situations.
There are many similarities and qualities that make each story a personal experience which has a significant effect on the audience.
In the “Heart of Darkness” the reader begins to feel the heavy atmosphere, as soon as Marlow starts his journey on the boat. The eerie surroundings, unknown land and people who are much different from the known world make the setting very foreign.
The further they travel down the river, the darker seems to be the jungle and people’s thoughts and expectations of what is to come. The fact that there are “cannibals” on the boat with Mr. Marlow adds to the imagery of a forbidden place where someone from the outside world can be in danger and disappear without a trace.
The atmosphere of the country, jungle and the boat darken even further when Charles Marlow and his crew men are met with enemy “fire”—arrows and spears. When the helmsman is killed and falls right by Mr. Marlow, it is easy to see how the environment and the events increase the devastation and panic sets in. Doubts of the purpose and the final goal overtake Charles Marlow and he is unaware if there is a point to continue. Everything that happens is pressuring people and seems like a heavy weight that cannot be lifted.
Even the atmospheric conditions of fog, the dark nights and the dense air are against people and demand to be left undisturbed. The nature greatly overpowers humans and commands them to turn back with many signs but nonetheless, they persist, as Mr. Marlow has an important mission. When they arrive at the station, the situation becomes even grimmer because Marlow is disappointed in Kurtz and is now sure that they came there for nothing.
He is thinking that the lives of people lost were not worth the trip. When he and Kurtz fall ill, it is another sign that they should not be there and that the whole world is against foreign people being in that place. Most importantly, the journey is the travel inside a man’s soul where the darkest corners are observed and cannot be lighted. People discover their true identities and those of others.
In “The Lamp at Noon”, the setting of the story also plays a very significant factor. The fact that two people are lonely, even though being very close, shows how the surrounding conditions can be alienating to humans. Ellen and Paul are desperately struggling on their farm with little crops and ability to prosper and this illustrates a dead end that has no escape. Their struggle through the unbeatable chances makes their battle with nature and weather even more in vein and makes them feel small and helpless.
Not only there is separation in their personal lives but the Great Depression makes it difficult to survive and see any future in anything the couple gets involved in. The isolation in the harsh environment sets the base for a distance between people and individuals from nature and land. People have been relying on their farms for a very long time and here, the conditions are such that there is no possibility to overpower nature. The desperation and hopelessness is described through imagery and is present throughout the story.
Another representation of the dark and inescapable nature of the environment is the storm. The hauling of the wind and walls creaking, all seem to be against the two lonely people on their farm. Ellen looks for support from Paul, as the surrounding conditions make her feel lonely and unsafe but he is unable to comfort her. All the forces of nature and human desperation come together to form an atmosphere of frustration and an unfamiliar world.
The mood of the story and the harshness of nature are displayed through imagery and personification. The wind becomes a force that is unstoppable and engulfs the little farm, consuming people and their emotions. Everything around becomes mad and wild, people are torn apart and thrown far away by the nature’s wrath.
Even when the couple tries to connect and support each other, their words are soundless. Paul is confused at what Ellen really wants and seems to live in a different world, set apart by the cruelty of desperation and inability to succeed. Ellen looks for help and consolation from Paul but he cannot hear her words. She cries and screams of pain but the wind and darkening skies swallow all sound and forbid any communication.
The two stories are very similar in their setting because both show how people and nature are two very different entities. “The Heart of Darkness” describes a journey into the land of horror and pain, and this is representative of the people’s deepest emotions and outlook on life. “The Lamp at Noon” portrays a similar movement through people’s soul only without them physically moving.
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It is interesting that even standing in one place an individual can delve into the deepest parts of their heart and mind, yet find no comfort and outlet of their feelings. The two stories are mostly centered on the surrounding environment and the people’s manifestation of their thoughts only adds to the general theme of darkness, loneliness and cruelty of the surroundings and people’s characters. It is made obvious that humans are not the rulers of their lives and forces of nature.
The insignificance of human individuality and their efforts is made obvious by how harsh conditions can direct and force people into a situation that so desperately must be avoided. The “darkness” of the two stories confirms that people have no control over nature and themselves, as it is an unknown world that must be carefully studied and explored.
The characters of the two stories and their actions are determined by the setting they find themselves in. It is clear that suffering and pain are inseparable from human experience and often, nature adds a great deal to the emotional instability and doubts that people feel. The authors have realistically illustrated how the surrounding environment overtakes the lives of individuals and robs them of almost all control. The connection to reality is very vivid and the circumstances can be physically felt.