Joseph Conrad birthday imageDecember 3 is author Joseph Conrad’s birthday. Born in Poland as Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, he learned to speak and write in English in his twenties.

The fact that he learned how to write in the English language so late in life makes his command of the language, as seen in his stories, impressive.

Joseph Conrad is famous for his novella Heart of Darkness in which the narrator goes on a voyage to the jungles of Africa in the late 1800s in search of a man named Kurtz. Here is the narrator’s description of a scene he comes upon. You can tell by the words and items he chooses in this description that what he finds next will not be nice:

 I nearly fell into a very narrow ravine, almost no more than a scar in the hillside. I discovered that a lot of imported drainage pipes for the settlement had been tumbled in there. There wasn’t one that was not broken. It was a wanton smashup. At last I got under the trees. My purpose was to stroll into the shade for a moment; but no sooner [was I] within than it seemed to me I had stepped into the gloomy circle of some inferno. The rapids were near, and an uninterrupted, uniform, headlong, rushing noise filled the mournful stillness of the grove, where not a breath stirred, not a leaf moved, with a mysterious sound—as though the tearing pace of the launched earth had suddenly become audible.

Conrad achieves his feeling of darkness and trouble by using smashed pipes, the “gloomy circle,” “inferno,” the “headlong, rushing noise” from the rapids, the “mournful stillness of the grove,” and the possibility of hearing the actual “tearing pace” of the earth hurtling through space. All of these dark images foreshadow the troubling scene he sees next.

Now it’s your turn: Use your powers of description to describe a place that is the opposite of this dark and gloomy place. What items will you show your reader? What images will you paint? What adjectives will you use to write about a happy, cheerful place?

Copyright © 2014 by Sharon Watson

Collage copyright © 2014 by Sharon Watson

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