My favorite novel throughout high school was Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I was really able to understand and appreciate the ideas that Conrad wove into his novel on the story of the trip up the Congo river told by a man running the ship. The man was able to retell all that he had seen, heard, and witnessed during his time, and later in his life retold the story in order to try and make sense of it and to get the blame off of himself. I always found this struggle with morality and self- justification very fascinating, and have found that most things in life can be related to this novel.
This was evident yet again when in the IDEAS seminar we discussed Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. I thought of it right away when we started to have a vague discussion about “the edge”, on where people like to be and where people go. Would you rather be safely in the middle, or on the edge, where there is a danger of falling off? The edge is that “darkness” Conrad talks about, and getting close allows you witness evil things. What does that do to your person, your humanity? But is it better to be blind, never knowing what is really out there?
Taking chances and getting closer to the edge may allow you to differ from right or wrong, but it gets risky when you’re close to falling off, as Kurtz did in Heart of Darkness. He reached a point of no return, whereas Marlow stayed on the edge and was able to witness all that happened. Yet the guilt of what he had seen stuck with him throughout his life, and as engineers this is actually an important thing to consider.
How do we wish to affect humanity, how will we deal with being on the edge, and how will we make sure we don’t go too far?