Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Metaphor is perhaps one of the most useful tools in determining the complexity, as well as the quality, of a work of literature. Joseph Conrad's Heart of darkness, for example, is not only a well-written work, but also one with metaphors which operate on multiple levels of meaning, and are open to many different interpretations. It is possible to see, however, that not only can the metaphors be interpreted differently, but can also be seen to work in a way entirely opposite to what traditional readings would dictate. Conrad has come under much criticism by Post-Colonialists who insist that the work is nothing more than a degrading diatribe about African savagery. What becomes clear upon closer investigation, however, is that Conrad is doing exactly the opposite through clever and inventive use of metaphor, symbolism, and light/dark imagery. One of the most popular attacks against science fiction is that it is straightforward, ungainly and lacking of any literary complexity.;While this may be true in individual cases, it is unfair to the genre as a whole; many science fiction works are actually more complex than their "mundane" counterparts. Connie Willis' "Schwarzschild Radius" is one of these. In fact, her work steps beyond Conrad's, and moves beyond the realm of the simply metaphorical, becoming both metaphorical and literal simultaneously. She too uses color imagery in new ways, but to this she adds an understanding of real-world scientific knowledge, making her work equal, and perhaps surpass, Conrad's. By closely examining the operation of figurative language in Heart of Darkness and comparing this use to "Schwarzschild Radius," it becomes possible to gain a better understanding of both science fiction and figurative language.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Brian Richard Duckwitz



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59 pages