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Shut in or Exposed - Inhospitable Landscapes in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian


  • Lovisa Eklund

Summary, in English

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985) are two novels that take place in the 19th century. They both have a protagonist who sets out on a journey to a place that he does not know much about, which involves travelling through wild, unfamiliar landscapes. In Heart of Darkness, the European sailor Charles Marlow travels to the colonized Congo, where he encounters the jungle, which he describes as impenetrable, completely quiet, and dark. In Blood Meridian, the fourteen-year-old boy called “the kid” leaves Tennessee for Texas where he encounters an open and empty landscape consisting of dry prairies, deserts, and mountains. The aim of this essay is to examine these wild landscapes and explain how open and closed spaces, darkness and light, sounds and silence, and the landscapes’ connection to death contribute to making them unfamiliar, inhospitable, and dangerous to the two protagonists. I will also show how Marlow and the kid are negatively affected by the landscapes by becoming either shut in or exposed.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Joseph Conrad
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • landscapes
  • wilderness
  • nature


  • Anna Lindhé (Dr)