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Thread: Did you love or hate Heart of Darkness?

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    Did you love or hate Heart of Darkness?

    Reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a lot like running a 5K (3.2 miles) race. You start out slow and steady trying to get your pace and make your way through the convoluted mess of other racers, but by mile two you’re huffing and puffing and ready to quit because it’s a lot harder than you thought it would be. By the time you hit mile three you think you can’t possibly keep going until finally the endorphins kick in and you realize, hey, you’re actually having fun! Then before you know it the race is over, and you’re left with a sense of wonder and accomplishment at having run the whole thing. Most importantly you take away a new identity of yourself; you, my friend, are now a Runner.

    Just as a 5K is 3 miles, Heart of Darkness is divided into 3 parts. For me, the first part of the story was initially hard to get into because I found it difficult to adjust to Conrad’s dense writing style, and I found myself confused by Conrad's use of one narrator to begin the story and then the shift in point of view to the character of Marlow telling his own story. I read something about an interview and something about a river boat captain, but few things made sense. By the second part, I thought I was beginning to understand. Marlow’s predicament with his broken down boat and the puzzle pieces began to come together. To grasp the meaning, I looked at reviews and others’ critiques of the story, and I realized I might not be understanding what was going on. I moved into part 3 with a tentative understanding. The plot, muddy and dark, became tinted grey. Marlow finally meets the man I'd read about in pages before -- Mr. Kurtz, a man spoken of with a weird sense of awe. Marlow, this idealist, comes to understand that some really bad things are happening in his world. He wakens to the realities of duplicity and greed and how a wild land can corrupt a man. Emotion seeps into part 3 as Marlow comes to understand. He says, “I was, so to speak, numbered with the dead. It is strange how I accepted this unforeseen partnership, this choice of nightmares forced upon me in the tenebrous land invaded by these mean and greedy phantoms.” Heart of Darkness is about a man, broken by his experience and what he sees and learns in the Congo.

    To experience Heart of Darkness is to come away asking yourself who you are and what has your life shaped you to be? And just as running a 5K gives you a new identity of Runner, reading Heart of Darkness gives you a new identity of Self.

    Please provide me with feedback on my review. Does it make you never want to lay eyes on the book? Does it bring bad memories of reading the book before? Good memories? Would you read the book based on my review?

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    Registered User Iain Sparrow's Avatar
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    I think you might have missed one of the important themes in Heart of Darkness, it is not Mr. Kurtz who has been corrupted... it is Marlow, and the Company who are irretrievably corrupt. Indeed, it is Mr. Kurtz who is the ultimate "company man"; his perverse and unyielding honesty set him leagues apart from his handlers back in England, but only by miles. There is no difference between the Company, Marlow, and Mr. Kurtz, except that Mr. Kurtz has unbridled himself from the hypocrisy and ambiguity inherent in any imperialistic enterprise.

    Imperialism and civilized society are just a facade; when one reads Heart of Darkness with this in mind, and how Conrad uses the Congo as scenery, really it's simply a backdrop to the story, the Natives little more than props... then the story becomes much darker.
    The predicament is, was this Conrad's intention?
    Last edited by Iain Sparrow; 02-12-2015 at 09:49 AM.

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    Thank you for your comment! I appreciate it. I'm curious to know what you thought of the Russian?

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    Registered User Iain Sparrow's Avatar
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    I think Conrad brings in the Russian Trader, and if memory serves it's shortly before Marlow finally meets Kurtz, to fill in some blanks as to Kurtz' conduct and also illustrate his charismatic effect on people... the Russian fears him, but he also idolizes him.
    If you haven't already guessed, I'm definitely in the camp of people who love Heart of Darkness.
    Btw, the movie Apocalypse Now is based (loosely) on Heart of Darkness, and it does capture the spirit and message of the book.

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