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Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Joseph Conrad. Before its 1902 publication, it appeared as a three-part series (1899) in Blackwood’s Magazine. It is widely regarded as a significant work of English literature and part of the Western canon. The story centres on Charles Marlow, who narrates most of the book. He is an Englishman who takes a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Heart of Darkness exposes the dark side of European colonization while exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters: the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Europeans’ cruel treatment of the natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil. Although Conrad does not give the name of the river, at the time of writing the Congo Free State, the location of the large and important Congo River, was a private colony of Belgium’s King Leopold II. In the story, Marlow is employed to transport ivory downriver. However, his more pressing assignment is to return Kurtz, another ivory trader, to civilization, in a cover-up. Kurtz has a reputation throughout the region.
This symbolic story is a story within a story or frame narrative. It follows Marlow as he recounts from dusk through to late night, to a group of men aboard a ship anchored in the Thames Estuary, his Congolese adventure. The passage of time and the darkening sky during the fictitious narrative-within-the-narrative parallel the atmosphere of the story. READ MORE

Heart of Darkness has been considered for most of this century not only as a literary classic, but as a powerful indictment of the evils of imperialism. It reflects the savage repressions carried out in the Congo by the Belgians in one of the largest acts of genocide committed up to that time. Conrad’s narrator encounters at the end of the story a man named Kurtz, dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities. More recently, African critics like Chinua Achebe have pointed out that the story can be read as a racist or colonialist parable in which Africans are depicted as innately irrational and violent, and in which Africa itself is reduced to a metaphor for that which white Europeans fear within themselves. The people of Africa and the land they live in remain inscrutably alien, other. The title, they argue, implies that Africa is the “heart of darkness,” where whites who “go native” risk releasing the “savage” within themselves. Defenders of Conrad sometimes argue that the narrator does not speak in Conrad’s own voice, and that a layer of irony conceals his true views. READ MORE

 

Read the book on line by going to – The Literature Network

This video uses Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the film Apocalypse Now as its inspiration in focusing on the darkness that existed in the Belgian Congo of King Leopold II and the darkness that has persisted over the past century into our own time.

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