Heart of Darkness


Advanced Search

(1902)




This novel exposes the myth behind colonisation whilst exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters--the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the European's cruel treatment of the natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil. Conrad himself was exposed to the brutality of European attitudes in the Congo when he worked as a captain of a steamboat on the Congo river. Conrad, as shown through this novella, was disgusted by the cruelty, futility, and lust for ivory. This is a profound, thought provoking novel that challenges the reader to question their own morals and values to 'The Horror' the novel exposes them to.--Submitted by Mikz Ramsing



A post-colonialist, post-modern text dealing with the psychological and physical transformation of the Europeans and the quest of an individual for self-knowledge in the heart of Africa, the dark continent - the Congo - where Belgium has set up a colony. Marlow goes there as captain and finds Kurtz, a prosperous ivory agent with deteriorating health. Marlow's journey to meet Kurtz and bring him home to Europe is symbolic of his journey to the heart of darkness, the subconscious mind.--Submitted by sayantani



In every society we have intellectuals who wish to curb bad elements. How can ordinary citizens do that? Answer: Through Art and Literature! Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, and Joseph Conrad are all great examples of such genius, with a common denominator : they were making not only humanistic statements, but also political statements. The character of Kurtz is as openly a metaphorical figure, as Shylock. He represents a 'type' of personality : one that is intelligent, ambitious and capable. But at the sight of money, he turns into an evil genius. But all human beings also have a quality of 'empathy' as well, with all living things. So, after a while, he goes insane. Joseph Conrad was a messiah, giving a bold and truthful message to his countrymen. The injustice of ambitious white people knew no bounds in Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. Thousands of elephants were killed mercilessly for their ivory. Conrad asks a basic question : is this why God created man as the highest living being? Another title for this great novel might have been : The Enlightened Animal. That's us!--Submitted by Lady Professor



Even as the title itself suggests the intent of the writer in describing the darkness of more than one kind, Joseph Conrad's novella goes beyond portraying the harsh rainforests of Congo or the morbid depths of human psyche or even the tyranny of imperialistic rule. What was most impressive about the book was how Conrad explores and describes situations and experiences in the Heart of Darkness that is Africa. His contemplation on the cannibals' restraint in a certain episode or his narration of the sighting of the wild primeval men and his appreciation of their raw humanity like yours and mine or his facetious comments on high-handed Imperialism or describing Kurtz's 'Intended''s mourning a year later - an entire gamut of human expression is traversed. One of the most striking features of this book is how the author describes the life-like quality of the wilderness and the almost phantasmagorical description of his crew's trip down the Congo river into the true Heart of Darkness. Apart from a plot narration that swings to and fro in a pleasing manner, the author is able to address the reader's qualms about certain of his assertions through characters who interrupt his narration that happens in the surreal setting of the Thames that Conrad so beautifully describes.--Submitted by Srinivas Naik



Heart of Darkness is a journey to the dark soul of mankind. In creating this fiction Conrad uses the technique of the Iliad. He also uses the technique which we find in The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner where the narrator has to keep repeating his story in an effort to cleanse the memory. Christian symbolism is rampant as Conrad shows us the pilgrims, the spear through the side of his helmsman, the episode with his shoes redolent of Jesus telling his disciples to shake off the dust from their sandals. The novella overall has a Nietzschian quality as the colonists strive to achieve their goals through a will to power over the indigent people of Africa. The women in the novella are reminiscent of the Madonna/ Whore complex. By the end of the narrative we are almost ready to start again hoping for a different outcome.--Submitted by Tom Keane



Conrad never tells us where Heart of Darkness is set. It begins on a boat moored on the Thames, with the glow of the City in the background, waiting for the tide to turn. Marlow, the narrator, tells of his boyhood yearning to visit the empty places of the world, and goes on to reminisce about his short time as a river-boat captain, on an endless river, in a dark continent, in the service of a European financial power. He never gives a more exact location than this, for the heart of darkness is an imaginative location, a place that may be anywhere, a dark violence that has no boundaries, with a starting point that is as likely to be the City glowing behind the narrator, as anywhere else.--Submitted by Anonymous




Heart of Darkness can be seen in some angles as an autobiographical novel by Conrad. The party dealing properly with the title begins when Marlow, on board with his friends on the Thames, takes his turn to tell a history to help them shorten mentally their trip. Marlow grows from a casual critic as the story in which he's implicated begins to an other person for his sound judgment is influenced by the harsh conditions he lived during his trip to rescue Kurtz. He even reaches a point where he loses his philanthropic character by judging severely the people who have not endured what he endured in Africa.--Submitted by Sawadogo Salfo





Fan of this book? Help us introduce it to others by writing a better introduction for it. It's quick and easy, click here.


Recent Forum Posts on Heart of Darkness

themes, motifs, symbols, etc

Hi, please, can anybody help me to analyze this text which comes from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I need to say what is the content, themes, symbols, atmosphere or other features prominent in this text: Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: `The horror! The horror!' My best answer is this: This part of the story seems to be quite dark and unhappy as the narrator (Marlow) says that he wishes to never see the person´s (Kurtz) features again. This may mean that it was horrible look. Also the expressions as "ruthless power and craven terror--of an intense and hopeless despair" give me an unpleasant feeling. Furthermore the last words "the horror" suggest terrible thoughts in th person mind, maybe of his memories. Al those words represent some kind of darkness. The amosphere is not a happy one. I think that Kurtz is in fever or so as it sounds that he doesn´t know about himself. The discription of his voice being no ore than a breath suggest that Kurtz is dying. The narrator seems that he is not a good friend of him as he is "not touched" This is very much about the content but what about the motifs and other featers? I really don´t know. Anybody can help? Many thanks! Edit / Delete Edit Post Quick reply to this message Reply Reply With Quote Reply With Quote Multi-Quote This Message


Heart of Darkness Lit Questions

THEME – EVIL What is an example of Marlow's philosophical questioning? What is the point of questioning? (1) • There is quite a bit to hear, the sounds of jungle, what does this suggest? (2) EXPLORING THEMES • How can ears and eyes fail you in Conrad’s world? (3) 'Heart of Darkness' suggests that one can hear truth even if they cannot see it. How true is this statement? (4) • Words are of a raving mad man (Kurtz) Is Kurtz mad? Discuss. (5) THE DEVASTATION Darkness is incomprehensible and absurd.Do you agree? Discuss and provide two examples. (6) (Outer station blast away station, no goal in mind) The outcome was that the natives were EXPLOITED. What are some examples of the darkness of the human soul in 'Heart of Darkness?' Discuss. (7) (Consider Kurtz, the company and the treatment of the natives). How are the natives perceived? Discuss. (8) This is for a lit class and we have to answer these but I have no time as I have a major project for my 3/4 class due (3/4 is Australian last year of high school and I'm doing a class for it whilst in the year below) the same day. If you could help me out or at least give any thoughts, that would be so ridiculously amazing, thank you in advance. :D:D:D


Thesis Help

I have a paper due and I am really bad at writing proper thesis statements. My prompt is: Marlow says that he detests lies at one point. Does this implied (and elsewhere stated) preference for truth hold constant it the novel? What is the "truth" that Marlow discovers, and does Marlow seem to understand his own character in light of that truth, or does he remain confused about his interests and beliefs?.. It would be helpful if anybody is able to help me with this!


Does Kurtz represent the Wall Streeter, the modern banker and the greedy capitalist?

I understand the spirit of this forum and this is an exclusive literature forum. Literature is a big domain that can contain wide ranges, disciplines, themes. We know great literatures had massive impacts on society. We Know Ayn Rand and her capitalism and I know how the Ex- Chairman of the Federal Reserve Allen Greenspan was influenced by her ideas and he used her works to reinforce capitalism in the US. Even I find the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith full of literature. I have recently read, a second time, first I read a decade ago, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I am an avid reader of economic and financial journals, and I saw some of our business tycoons bearing resemblance to Kurtz of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad when they are swayed by the passion for wealth and power. I hope this is not off literary topics and want to hear an analogical comments by the panels here. This discussion will center around Kurtz, the greedy and passion driven fortune pursuer resembling somewhat some of our modern power and pelf mongers.


Heart of Darkness Video Game Project!!!

I'm sure you guys are familiar with Apocalypse Now, right? Well did you know the movie is actually heavily based on the novel, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad? We had to read that book my high school senior year in English VI, and we were assigned a project based on it. Now, a lot of people went the home movie route with their friends. Me? I made a video game in less than a week with Game Maker, and I had no idea how to use it. I stressed out so much over the crappy tutorials I could scrape from the internet and worked long nights (until 3 AM) every weekday, but eventually what emerged was this: http://www.yoyogames.com/games/148189-heart-of-darkness or http://www.mediafire.com/?70idxq7jq59dxpc You'll know what part of the book this game takes place just by looking at the title. I call it "Heart of Darkness: Arrows from Above". Just read the prologue if you're still lost. You can skip the prologue if you want by left-clicking the screen. Here's some basic info about the game in case you're not much of a gamer: 1. It's a platformer game (like Super Mario Brothers) 2. To move left and right press the left and right arrow keys 3. To jump press the up arrow key 4. The light grey areas are NOT solid 5. Falling arrows can kill you (arrows going up in the background do not kill you) 6. You can jump on the thin platforms hanging over the grey areas (watch out, the wooden ones break and the grey platforms do not block arrows) 7. Make sure and read what the crewmen have to say. Some have helpful tips If you read the book you might want to burn it because of how hard it was to read the dialect, but you might get a few chuckles out of the game. I think you guys will get most of the references from the book, especially the "pilgrims" and the rivets (and yes I know they didn't mean colonial pilgrims).


Heart of Darkness Questions

So i've been working on my heart of darkness questions for class and i've having some trouble with these few questions. Any help would be appreciated! :seeya: 1. What does the frame narrator say distinguishes Marlow from other sailors? How is this distinction significant with respect to the adventure that Marlow recounts? 2. Describe the exchange between Marlow and his idealistic Aunt. How well does Marlow's self-description as a realist hold up over the course of the story? Explain. 3. When Marlow reaches the Company's Outer Station, and offers us some observations about it. What does he say about the reigning "Devil" in this Outer Station? How does this "Devil" differ from others with whom he has made acquaintance? 4. What fundamental contrast or contradiction among the Outer Station inhabitants begins to appear right away, as soon as Marlow comes across dying workers and the smartly dressed Company Accountant? 5. What is the first description we hear of Kurtz? For what quality or activity is he praised? How does the praise bring up the novella's frequent oppositions between light or whiteness and darkness? 6. When Marlow reaches the Central Station, how does he describe nature's effects on the Station and its inhabitants? What power does the wilderness have over the Station, and what appears to motivate its occupants? 7. What view of Kurtz does the Brickmaker (a favorite of the Manager) take? Why does he appear to resent Kurtz? 8. How do the Manager and his nephew reveal their resentment of Kurtz in spite of that agent's obvious success as an ivory collector? What effect does their resentment have upon Marlow, who has overheard their conversation? 9. What does Marlow imply is the basis for his ability to respond to the African natives he observes? To what extent does he here invoke the distinction often made between nature and culture, primitive and civilized? Does he accept that distinction? 10. After making some less than condemnatory remarks about Kurtz, Marlow is pegged as a "fellow traveler" of Kurtz. How does Marlow react when he finally closes in upon and then encounters Kurtz? Once again, any sort of help would be appreciated!


Heart of darkness questions

What view of modern Western European society do we get from the Narrator? From Marlow? How are we to interpret the story Marlow tells? As a "yarn"? As a history? As some kind of myth? A morality play, maybe? Can we take Marlow to be an impartial, objective narrator? A truthful one?


Heart of Darkness IB

Post and discussion moved to http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?p=961394&posted=1#post961394


Heart of Darkness - Racist?

So I'm re-reading Heart of Darkness right now, keeping in mind allegations from peers that the story's description of native Africans is racist. What I find most striking, and also perhaps very controversial, is how Conrad describes the natives as "prehistoric" - that is the very word he uses. This is a stronger and more poignant description than "uncivilized" or "primitive" - while it implies the other notions, it is also distinctly romantic. For no race or people is prehistoric, but Conrad is abstracting the natives into something more strange and frightening than the popular conception of them at the time as brutes. They are not just different; they are completely alien: walking ghosts from the irretrievable origins of humanity. One can see how this concept is romantic in its abstraction and frightening in its vision. At the same time, it is completely wrong; Africans had not been unaffected by the ages as Conrad asserts - they have their own culture, their own inheritance. It is wrong but it is romantic, and it adds a fantastic feel to the story. It is also not Conrad's conception, but Marlow's. Do you think this conception of the natives as "prehistoric", incorrect but poignant, is at all offensive or racist? It adds to the story, and the story would not be the same without it. It would not have that fantastic feel. If you do find it to be offensive and racist, would you ascribe it to Marlow or Conrad? It seems to me that, in order to assert the book racist, it would have to be Conrad's prejudice as well as Marlow's.


Heart of Darkness Discussion Group

As some people may know from previous comments I have made I am to say the least a bit ambivalent about Conrad, I am trying to be good and not judge him based upon just one reading experience, but I had attempted to read Lord Jim and I could not get into the writing and found the story difficult to follow and eventually had to give up on the book. I have allowed myself to be convinced to give him another chance, but I am in no hurry to revisit Lord Jim again, and I have not very long ago finished reading "The God of Small Things" which makes several references to the Heart of Darkness which roused my intrigue and put me in the mood to attempt this book. Because of the difficulties I had with Lord Jim and my apprehensions about the author I thought it would be beneficial to me if I could read this book with the support of a discussion group. So I was wondering if anyone would be interested in a discussion of "The Heart of Darkness? I plan to start reading the book in August.


Post a New Comment/Question on Heart of Darkness



Quizzes on Joseph Conrad

Please submit a quiz here.



Related links for Joseph Conrad

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about Joseph Conrad written by other authors featured on this site.

    Sorry, no links available.






Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Email:
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.
Email: