For the Text Analysis and Data Visualization assignment, I analyzed Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”, as found on the Project Gutenburg website. I am quite familiar with this work as I studied it extensively last year in AP Literature 12 and also re-read and wrote an essay about it recently in History class as part of our studies on imperialism in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century.
The novel “Heart of Darkness” is set at the turn of the twentieth century during the peak of imperialism and imperialistic activity in Africa. The novel follows the character Marlow as he leads a faceless and purposely unnamed Belgian ivory trading Company’s ship into the Congo to discover what happened to another ivory trader named Kurtz. His assignment from the Company is to remove him from his post deep in the jungle and return him back to “civilization”. Through Marlow’s journey into Congo, a land that supposedly needs to be “civilized” by Europeans, he discovers falseness of the entire colonization “mission” and sees the extent of cruelty that humans can do to their fellow man.
The first form of analysis I did with the text was to manually extract metadata from it. For this, I followed the outline that we used in the second lab/blog post and used the “Digital Text” criteria sheet as a guide. However, I also added additional questions and variables (such as country of publication and more…)
▪ Title/Name: “Heart of Darkness”
▪ Author: Joseph Conrad
▪ Publisher: Original Publisher: Blackwood’s Magazine, Online Publisher: Project Gutenburg
▪ Date of Creation: Original Date: 1899 / Online Publication: 2006-01-09
▪ Date Viewed: October 16th 2010 8:36PM PDT
▪ Persistent Identifier: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219.txt
▪ Language: English
▪ Format: .txt
▪ Media Type: Raw Text File
▪ Subject: Psychological Fiction / Imperialism – Fiction
▪ Category: Academia, Psychology, Literature,
▪ Tags: Imperialism, Europeans, Colonialism, Africa, Psychological Fiction, Congo, Belgium, Heart of Darkness
▪ Copyright Status: Public Domain (Internationally)
▪ Country of Original Publication: United Kingdom
Description: A psychological thriller dealing with the issue and myth of the “colonizing mission” and of European conquest in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century
For the second part of my text analysis assignment, I created a Wordle out of all the words used in the novel. Using Lab/Blog #3 as a guideline, I created a Wordle, keeping the design in mind and tried to have it reflective of the nature of the work. As well, I used the resulting Wordle image as a tool for analysis of the work in general.
Interestingly, the largest and commonly used word in all of the Heart of Darkness text was the name “Kurtz”, the name of the ivory trader that had gone rogue in the heart of the Congo jungle. The second largest and second mostly commonly used work was like, followed by the word man. The frequency of the usage of the word “Kurtz” illustrates nicely how obsessed Marlow becomes of Kurtz throughout the novel. Kurtz is fascinating to Marlow as he supposedly a “civilized” European that has been seduced by the wildness and the lack of control and rule in the jungle. I interpreted the frequency of the word like to how the book focuses a lot on human desires and needs. At the base human level, we desire freedom from the control and structure of society and in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century there was no formal rule or law. This lack of social structure caused Europeans in Africa, people who had lived and grown up in a world of rules and regulations, to act out and test out what were the limits of human cruelty in a world where nobody was there to police them and say “no”. This is a theme that is reflected in the novel and seems to come out of Joseph Conrad’s own personal experiences in the Congo jungle – experiences which allegedly inspired him to write “Heart of Darkness”
For the graphic design of the Wordle itself, I chose a dark and subdued “Autumn” theme that reflects the somber and dark nature of the novel. I chose a black background to reflect them “darkness” of the book and lighter though still dark reds and orange hues of the text in the center of the Wordle to reflect the “Heart” in “Heart of Darkness”. One final change I made to the appearance of the Wordle was to change the orientation of the text to “Mainly Horizontal”, as the initial automated rendering of the Wordle had made the text mainly vertical, which was hard to read for me without having to bend my neck.
I think the Wordle compliments and reflects the topic of “Heart of Darkness” quite well. The abundance of contrasting words in the Wordle, such as “black” and “white” and “night” and “light” reflects the constant motifs of contrast in the book (such as between the “light” of the civilized world, and the “darkness” of the wilderness and of evil men’s hearts”
For the final aspect of analysis for this assignment, I submitted the entire text of “Heart of Darkness” for analysis through “Voyeur Tools”. Through the use of this online text analysis application, I gained some valuable information about word concordance and frequency
Here’s some of the statistics:
In “ Heart of Darkness” there were 40,850 words used. Out of these words 6,411 were unique (meaning they were used in only one instance). Out of all the words, before the stop list was utilized, the most common word was “the”, used a grand total of 2,427 times. After learning this information, I used the Compare text function to compare “Heart of Darkness” with “Shakespeare’s Plays” – a preset option that Voyeur Tools offers. After performing the comparison, the result was that there were very few similarities between the two texts. In fact, the most commonly shared words were basic grammatical phrases such as “the” (594 common occurances) and “of” (362 common occurances) and many others too common to mention.
For all purposes and intents of this assignment, I found text analysis though manual metadata hunting and using the Wordle visualization tools the most useful in gaining a better understanding of the text. The metadata I generated would be quite useful if I was to analyze the context of the novel as a whole (which I had to do for my history class in fact!). For example, through my metadata research for “Heart of Darkness”, I discovered that it was initially published by “Blackwood’s Magazine” which was, in fact, a prominent Tory (or Conservative), magazine in England at the time. This is very significant as Heart of Darkness is widely considered today by many academics as a treatise on the evils on imperialism in Africa during the turn of the twentieth century. When considering this, a possible explanation could be that at the time of publication (1899), readers were more taken in by the description of the natives as “savages”, rather than analyzing the content and overall message of the novel as a whole. I found “Voyeur Tools” to be the least helpful towards the analysis of my text as it merely provided structural data regarding the book (such as how many words were used). While this would have been useful had I been doing an analysis on a different type of text, such as a dissertation or a technical publication, for the analysis of historical literature, Voyeur did not prove valuable in this instance.