Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad | A Post Colonial Novel

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This post is a marvelous piece that contains a bio-sketch of Joseph Conrad, and his significant works. The post covers the introduction of the author, About Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, an analysis of the novel, a summary, and important questions. This post will help with everything you need to know about Heart of Darkness(Novella).

Joseph Conrad

Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski a.k.a Joseph Conrad was born on December 3, 1857, in Berdichev, Ukraine, Russian Empire (now Berdychiv, Ukraine), and died on August 3, 1924, in Canterbury, Kent, England. He was a Polish English novelist and short-story writer. His works include the novels Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904), and The Secret Agent (1907), as well as the short story Heart of Darkness (1902). During his life, Conrad was admired for the depth of his writing and the way he described dangerous life at sea and in faraway places.

But his early reputation as a master storyteller of colorful sea adventures hid his interest in the individual in the face of nature’s constant indifference, man’s frequent wickedness, and his own inner struggles between good and evil. For Conrad, the sea was most of all about the tragedy of being alone. People think of him as one of the best English novelists because he writes with a lot of skill and insight, but most of all because he has a very personal vision.

The early life of Conrad

Apollo Nalecz Korzeniowski, Conrad’s father, was a poet and a fervent Polish patriot. He was also one of the people who set up the committee that led the Polish rebellion against Russian rule in 1863. He was arrested at the end of 1861 and sent to live in Vologda, which is in the north of Russia. His wife and 4-year-old son went with him.

In 1865, his wife died from tuberculosis, which was made worse by the harsh climate. Conrad says in A Personal Record that he first learned English when he was eight years old and his father was translating the works of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo to make money for the family. During those years when he was alone with his father, he read books written in Polish and French by Sir Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Dickens, and William Makepeace Thackeray.

Apollo had tuberculosis, and he died in 1869 in Kraków. Lawyer Tadeusz Bobrowski, the boy’s maternal uncle, took care of him. He gave his nephew advice, reprimands, financial help, and love. He sent Conrad to school in Kraków and then Switzerland, but the boy was bored with school and wanted to go to sea. Conrad sailed from Marseille in 1874.

Bobrowski gave him a 2,000-franc-a-year allowance and put him in touch with merchant Delestang, whose ships Conrad sailed in the French merchant service. On the Mont-following Blanc’s voyage, he sailed as an apprentice. In July 1876, he went to the West Indies on the Saint-Antoine. On this expedition, Conrad may have engaged in gunrunning and cruised around the Venezuelan coast, which he later wrote about in Nostromo.

Dominic Cervoni, the ship’s first mate, was the model for the novel’s hero and played a key part in Conrad’s life and work. Conrad returned to Marseille in debt and possibly attempted suicide. As a sailor in the French merchant navy, he was liable to conscription when he turned 18, so following his recovery he joined a British freighter sailing for Constantinople with coal in April 1878. In June 1878, he returned to Lowestoft, England.

Conrad spoke barely a few words of the language he would master. In October, Conrad sailed as an ordinary seaman on a London Sydney wool clipper. Conrad was in the merchant navy for 16 years. In June 1880, he became a second mate and boarded the 425-ton Palestine in April 1881. This trip took him to the Far East for the first time and was a challenging voyage that gave him literary fodder to use later.

Beset by gales, accidentally rammed by a steamer, and deserted by a large portion of her crew, Palestine made it to the East Indies when her coal cargo caught fire and the crew had to take to the lifeboats; Conrad’s initial landing in the East, on an island off Sumatra, took 13 1/2 hours in an open boat. Conrad published his description of his events in Palestine in the short story “Youth” in 1898.

In September 1883, he left Riversdale in Madras to join the Narcissus at Bombay. This expedition inspired his work The Nigger of the “Narcissus,” about an egocentric black sailor’s death at sea. Conrad started writing English letters around this period. Conrad became a British subject in August 1886 and received his master mariner’s certificate three months later.

In February 1887, he sailed on the Highland Forest to Semarang, Java. John McWhirr, her captain, later played the brave, unimaginative Nan Shan captain in Typhoon. He then joined the Vidar, a locally owned steamship in Southeast Asia. During his five or six excursions in four and a half months, Conrad explored the setting he would later re-create in Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, and Lord Jim, as well as other short stories.

After departing the Vidar, Conrad got his first command on the Otago out of Bangkok, which inspired his stories “The Shadow-Line” and “Falk.” He took over the Otago badly. The captain Conrad replaced died at sea, and by the time the ship reached Singapore, a 1,300-mile (800-km) journey that took three weeks due to lack of wind, the entire crew, except Conrad and the chef, had a fever. Conrad then discovered to his dismay that his predecessor had sold practically all the ship’s supply of quinine.

Conrad’s works, topics, and style

While waiting for a command in London in 1889, Conrad wrote Almayer’s Folly. His strongest and most meaningful adventure disrupted his work. As a boy in Poland, he pointed to Africa and stated, “When I grow up, I’ll go there.” In 1889, the Congo Free State was four years old and known for imperialistic exploitation. Conrad’s desire was to command a Congo River steamer.

Using his influence, he got an appointment in Brussels. What he saw did, and felt in the Congo are mostly recounted in Heart of Darkness, his most renowned, greatest, and most perplexing narrative. The title means the heart of Africa, the Dark Continent, but also the heart of evil everything corrupt, nihilistic, and malign, and perhaps the heart of man. Conrad’s Congo experiences were traumatic and crucial to his work and vision.

Before the Congo, I was a mere animal. But he may have exaggerated, but Kurtz’s dying cry, The horror! The horror was Conrad’s. Psychological, spiritual, and even metaphysical stress affected his physical health in the Congo; he suffered from recurrent fever and gout for the rest of his life. Four months later, in January 1891, Conrad returned to England. When his guardian Tadeusz Bobrowski died in 1894, he stopped sailing. Almayer’s Folly was released in April 1895 by London publisher Fisher Unwin. Conrad adopted his name as the author of this novel after learning that the name Korzeniowski was hard to pronounce in Britain.

Almayer’s Folly was followed in 1896 by An Outcast of the Islands, in which a foolish and superficial character meets the tragic consequences of his own flaws in a tropical environment remote from his fellow Europeans. These two works sparked a lifelong misunderstanding of Conrad’s talents and purpose.

Set in the Malayan archipelago, they made him a writer of exotic tales, a reputation that a succession of maritime novels and short stories The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897), Lord Jim (1900), Youth (1902), and Typhoon (1902) seemed to support. But his own remarks regarding the Narcissus explain his choice of settings:

The problem… is not a problem of the sea; it is rather a problem that has arisen on board a ship where full isolation from terrestrial entanglements makes it stand out with a special power and coloring.

This is also true of his other works, the latter part of Lord Jim takes place in a jungle village, not because the emotional and moral problems that interest Conrad are unique to jungle villages, but because there Jim’s feelings of guilt, responsibility, and insecurity feelings common to mankind work themselves out with logic and inevitability enforced by his isolation.

Conrad’s writing is distinguished from many 19th- and early-20th-century novels by its goal, not its outlandishness. In Balzac’s phrases, they wanted to broaden the novel’s breadth; Conrad wanted to isolate and concentrate on tragedy. Conrad married Jessie George, 22, and had two kids. His existence as a novelist was marred by bad health, near poverty, and temperamental issues.

After writing what are today considered his best novels—Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), and Under Western Eyes (1911), In 1910, he became financially secure. John Quinn, an American collector, bought his manuscripts at ludicrously low prices when he received a £100 Civil List annuity. His 1912 novel Chance and 1915 novel Victory were both successful. Conrad continued to write despite his rheumatism. He died shortly after refusing a knighthood from Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in April 1924.

In his own time, Conrad was hailed for his ability to depict life at sea and in the tropics and for his books’ romance, a word used to denote his ability to use an intricate literary style to lay a film of illusory splendor over wretched occurrences. His fame declined after his death, and a later revival of interest stressed other features and novels than his contemporaries.

Modern critics should focus on the themes of some of these texts. Nostromo (1904), a story of revolution, politics, and financial manipulation in a South American republic, centers on one idea, the corruption of the characters by their goals which concern silver, the country’s wealth, and the novel’s major symbol. Aspirations span from avarice to reform and justice. All lead to moral calamity and the nobler the aim, the more the owner’s self-disgust.

Heart of Darkness which chronicles Conrad’s Congo adventure tells of the narrator’s obsession with a strange white guy, Kurtz, who dominates the violent natives around him. Full of scorn for selfish traders who exploit indigenous, the narrator cannot deny the influence of this wicked figure who elicits reluctant loyalty from him.

The Secret Agent (1907), one of Conrad’s best works, deals with anarchists, police, politicians, and agents provocateurs in London. Victory (1915) is about a distant, nihilistic spectator of life who tries to protect himself and his hapless female companion from three rogues on a secluded island.

Conrad is a pessimist. Every idealism contains the germs of corruption, and the most honorable persons find their unquestioned standards inadequate against evil. Conrad repeatedly depicts men forced to recognize an emotional affinity with persons they expected to dislike. This nearly dismal image acquires strength from the sense that Conrad accepted it unwillingly, not with morbid relish.

Conrad’s influence

Conrad’s technical advances and picture of mankind influenced later novelists greatly. He writes about extreme men. He said in A Personal Record’s prologue, Those who read me know my conviction that the world, the temporal world rests on a few simple notions, It rests, notably among others, on the idea of Fidelity.

For Conrad, faithfulness is the barrier man erects against nothingness, corruption, and the evil that is all about him, subtle, and waiting to consume him. What happens when integrity is lost, the barrier is breached, and evil within acknowledges evil without is Conrad’s greatest theme. Feminist and post-colonialist analyses of Modernist literature have emphasized Conrad and verified his relevance to Modernism.

About Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness was first published in 1899 as a series in Blackwood’s Magazine. It was finally published as a whole in 1902, as the third piece in a book Conrad called Youth. Many readers and critics have been interested in the novel since it came out in Youth.

Almost all of them thought it was an important one because of the way it uses ambiguity and, in Conrad’s own words, “fogginess” to show how Marlow perceives the horrible things he notices. Critics have said that Heart of Darkness broke many narrative conventions and brought the English novel into the twenty-first century.

One notable person who didn’t like the novel was the British author E. M. Forster, who didn’t like the ambiguities that other critics liked so much, and Chinua Achebe, an African novelist who thought the novella and Conrad were examples of European racism.

In 1890, Conrad went to the Congo. He sailed up the Congo River in a steamboat, just like Marlow does in the book. “Heart of Darkness… is experience pushed a little (and only a little) beyond the actual facts of the case,” Conrad wrote in his introduction to the novel in 1917. It is full of biographical facts.

For example, like Marlow, Conrad had always wanted to “follow the sea,” the wife of a distant relative (like Marlow’s aunt) helped him get a job with a trading company, and the captain who preceded him was murdered by natives in a fight (like Fresleven in the book), and Conrad met several men who were just as cruel as Kurtz.

Heart of Darkness is more than a compelling travelogue and a startling depiction of horrors because of the way it subtly illustrates Marlow’s developing comprehension of what is taking place in this far corner of the world. Like many Europeans, Marlow yearned for adventure and loved tales like those told by Stanley, including his creator.

But once he gets to the Congo and witnesses the ‘terrible work” (as he sarcastically calls it), he will no longer be able to hide behind the guise of his quaint society. Instead, Kurtz is forced to examine his own soul to discover the evil that resides within as a result of all the atrocities committed by European traders and agents, who are represented by Kurtz.

‘The essentials of this affair, according to Marlow in the first part of the book, “lay deep under the surface, beyond my reach”; nevertheless, by the end of his journey, he will have glimpsed beneath “the surface” and seen the inhumanity to which even once-respectable men like Kurtz are prone.

One of the most notable instances of imperialism and genocide in recent memory occurred around the end of the nineteenth century. Belgian King Leopold II (1865–1909) who had an insatiable appetite for wealth, territory, and power, looked to Africa for these things.

He shared the interest of many other Europeans in the descriptions of Africa provided by the renowned explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841–1904), whose best-selling travelogues How I Found Livingstone: Adventures and Discoveries in Central Africa (1872) and Through the Dark Continent (1878) chronicled his explorations.

Leopold eventually succeeded in securing the Congo region of Africa as a Belgian colony through a succession of schemes and a torrent of propaganda praising his generosity. Leopold gave his new country the name État Independent du Congo, or The Congo Free State, on May 20, 1885. Belgium maintained dominance over this vast region of Africa until 1960.

The Congo was Leopold II’s ideal colony for a variety of reasons. First, vast quantities of rubber and ivory could be collected and shipped to Europe. Leopold repeatedly presented himself to his European contemporaries as a humanitarian and benefactor, while in reality; he brutally governed the Congo (without ever having been there).

Third, there was a lot of labor available and, more significantly to Leopold, it was free because his agents frequently forced the Congolese into slave labor by inflicting violence or making threats against them. Women were frequently kidnapped and held captive, for instance, until their husbands and children had collected enough rubber.

Furthermore, there weren’t many overhead expenses: Huts and mess halls were constructed for the agents, and a train system was constructed through the Congo to ensure that supplies could reach the various locations quickly. Finally, the colony had traveled thousands of miles from the security of the European skies. People couldn’t judge what they weren’t seeing.

Leopold’s agents were therefore a fragmented, intolerable, and cruel set of individuals who were only concerned with exploiting the natives in order to further their financial benefit. They regularly slaughtered large groups of Indians at once, hacked off their hands, and beat them with a stick, a piece of sun-dried hippopotamus hide.

In King Leopold’s Ghost, his most recent work on the nation, historian Adam Hochschild calculates that 10 million people fled the Congo during the time Leopold was pillaging it. The Congo was later referred to as a horror in Heart of Darkness because of a confluence of illness, famine, a low birthrate, and obvious murder.

Some people, who witnessed the atrocities there, like E. D. Morel and Sir Roger Casement, later rose to prominence as anti-Leopold activists and led occasional attempts to overthrow Leopold. Other witnesses, such as Joseph Conrad when he wrote Heart of Darkness, created works of art based on what they saw.

Leopold’s Congo and the White and Black inhabitants are mentioned in Conrad’s book. An obvious analog of Leopold’s actions in Africa is the evil Company, which hires Marlow. Leopold’s agents portray themselves as the “faithless pilgrims” in search of wealth when Marlow visits the Congo, and the chain gang that Marlow sees at the Outer Station gives a glimpse of the slavery that Leopold’s agents uphold.

The “first-class agent,” Kurtz, is a representation of the universal horrors that Conrad saw. He commits innumerable barbaric activities, such as hanging “rebel” heads from the poles surrounding his home. Marlow informs his audience on board the Nellie, “In the hot sunshine of that place I would meet a flabby, faking, weak-eyed creature of a greedy and pitiless folly. The “devil” in this instance is Leopold’s avarice, which propelled him to continue the systematic eradication of the Congo and its inhabitants for more over twenty years.

Heart of Darkness Summary

Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad that opens on a British ship moored in the Thames. An anonymous narrator, a Company Director, an Accountant, and Charles Marlow sit silently. Marlow tells the men about a steamboat trip up the Congo River. Marlow narrates the rest of the narrative (with minimal breaks).

Marlow wants to pilot a steamboat on the Congo River as a young man. Marlow applies to and is hired as a streamer captain by the Belgian Company, a Congo-based ivory trading enterprise. His French steamer leaves Europe. Marlow watches brutality, turmoil, and waste in the Company’s Congo Outpost. Marlow is fascinated by the Accountant’s pristine clothes and strict demeanor.

Marlow learns about Kurtz via his brilliant accountant. Marlow departs the Outer Station for a 200-mile walk through Africa, where he discovers that the steamboat he was supposed to sail up the Congo has wrecked. Marlow must wait at Central Station while his boat is repaired.

The Company Manager tells Marlow more about Kurtz. The Manager claims Kurtz is ill and he feigns care for Kurtz’s health, but Marlow knows the manager that he damaged his riverboat on purpose to keep supplies from reaching Kurtz. Marlow encounters the Brick maker, whose job appears useless because he lacks brick-making materials.

Three weeks later, the Manager’s uncle leads The Eldorado Exploring Expedition (a group of traders). Marlow overhears the Manager with his uncle discussing Kurtz while laying on his wrecked steamboat. Marlow feels that the Manager fears Kurtz may steal his job. His uncle told him to trust the woods to kill Kurtz.

Marlow’s boat is finally fixed, and he sails with the Manager, some agents, and a cannibal crew to help Kurtz. They find a reed cottage, a woodpile, and an English book 50 miles below Kurtz’s Inner Station. Marlow’s steamboat was pelted with arrows as it approached Kurtz. While Marlow steers the boat, the Whites shoot into the bush. Consequently, a spear kills and throws overboard a native helmsman.

Marlow is sad that he won’t get to speak to Kurtz, assuming the same natives attacked the Inner Station. Marlow reaches the Inner Station and sees Kurtz’s building through his telescope – there is no fence, just posts decorative with balls that are eventually revealed to be natives’ heads. Russian businessman and Kurtz’s disciple “The Harlequin” informs Marlow that Kurtz is alive. Marlow discovers the hut they saw is Harlequin’s.

The Harlequin tells of Kurtz’s expertise “This man enlarged my mind.”Marlow finds the reason for the attack on the steamboat is that the locals didn’t want Kurtz taken away. Marlow observes a group of native men transporting Kurtz on a stretcher and taken into a cottage, he gives Kurtz some letters there.  Marlow sees Kurtz’s frailty, illness, and baldness.

On seeing a wild and gorgeous native woman approaching him,   Marlow is informed that she is Kurtz’s Mistress when he leaves the hut. Marlow hears Kurtz behind a curtain saying, “Save me! Save the ivory.” The Harlequin, afraid of what may happen when Kurtz is carried aboard the steamer, asks Marlow for tobacco and rifle bullets.

At midnight, Marlow hears a drum. He checks Kurtz’s cabin but finds him missing. Marlow finds a grassy track and realizes Kurtz is crawling away. Marlow helps Kurtz to his feet and carries him back to the cabin as Kurtz warns him to flee.

The next day, Marlow, his crew, and Kurtz leave. Kurtz’s condition deteriorates as they move out from the Inner Station; when the steamboat breaks down, he hands Marlow a packet of letters and a photo for safekeeping. Marlow agrees.

Marlow approaches Kurtz on his stretcher in the pilothouse. Marlow hears Kurtz’s dying words after reassuring him he won’t die The horror! The horror!  Kurtz is buried offshore the next day. Marlow returns to Europe but can’t relate to the protected Europeans there.

A Company officer asks Marlow for Kurtz’s paperwork. Marlow refuses, but he gives the official Kurtz’s report to The Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs with the terrifying postscript taken out. Kurtz’s mother died after being nursed by Kurtz’s “Intended.” Marlow’s final obligation to Kurtz is to deliver his letters and portrait to his Intended.

When he visits her, she’s still mourning Kurtz’s death and is dressed in black. The Intended begs Marlow to repeat Kurtz’s last words when he reveals he was with him when he died. Marlow replies The last word he pronounced was your name. The Intended says she “knew” Kurtz would say that, and Marlow leaves humiliated by his falsehood.

Nellie’s unnamed narrator continues. The Director of Companies makes a benign remark about the tide, and the narrator glances at the cloudy sky and the Thames, which leads into an unfathomable blackness.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad  Analysis

Heart of Darkness can be understood on the most basic level through its semiautobiographical tie to Conrad’s real life. Conrad’s merchant marine career, like that of his protagonist Marlow, carried him up the Congo River. Conrad, like Marlow, was deeply moved by the human depravity he encountered on his boat tour of European colonization in Africa.

But to reduce Heart of Darkness to the similarities it has with Conrad’s own experiences is too reductive. Examining Conrad’s use of many narrators, couching one narrative within another, the chronological unfolding of the story, and his near post-structuralism mistrust of the consistency of language, among other things, would be helpful in understanding how modernism first emerged. The popular heroism that serves as the core theme of his work, however, also serves as a tribute to the Victorian stories he was raised on.

Heart of Darkness, in this regard, sits on the brink of a declining Victorian sensibility and a burgeoning Modernist sensibility. This type of early post-structuralism use of language—his stress on the intrinsic lack of words to represent the actual, in all of its horrifying truth—is one of the most blatantly Modernist aspects of Conrad’s writing.

The path of Marlow is replete with experiences with the “unspeakable,” “inscrutable,” and “incomprehensible” objects of the world. In this way, language consistently falls short of its intended purpose of communication. Marlow’s statement that it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence… “We live, as we dream, alone, sums up the phenomenon in the best way.

We are alone; we dream alone. Despite his “eloquence,” Kurtz is unable to fully express the dreadful blackness he saw all around him.  He can only exclaim, “The horror! The horror!  Some commentators have argued that Heart of Darkness’s widespread appeal stems in part from this language’s ambiguity—from the freedom it provides its readers to interpret.

Others argue that Conrad’s failure to name objects is a significant flaw in the text and that it is inappropriate for a writer of his level to lack this capacity. This may be evidence of the Heart of Darkness’s interpretive flexibility in and of itself. Postcolonial analysis of Heart of Darkness has given place to more sarcastic criticisms.

Conrad, in the words of Achebe, was a “thoroughgoing racist,” who dehumanized Africans in order to utilize them as a backdrop to examine the interiority of the white man. Conrad does little to combat the prejudice that supports colonialism, instead seeing the indigenous people of Africa as little more than a component of the surrounding environment, which is why Achebe is correct.

Despite being praised as one of the West’s most insightful publications on the negative effects of European imperialism in Africa, this work makes no mention of the African people themselves. Similar criticisms of Conrad’s treatment of his female characters in the same way as he did with his African ones have been made in the feminist debate.

Women are used as signifiers that blend in with the other signifiers that make up the text, not as multidimensional persons. The African queen becomes the embodiment of darkened nature and an eroticized symbol of its atavistic allure. Kurtz’s Intended, on the other hand, is just a signifier for the illusory reality of a society that Marlow is trying to protect against the encroaching darkness of human nature.

They are empty shells stripped of all particularity and meaning, allowing Conrad to fill them with the significance he sees fit. Because neither woman is interiorized or given a name, Conrad appears to be favoring his masculine voice above any potential feminine one rather than using language to illustrate the shortcomings of language.

Many contemporary analyses—including the aforementioned postcolonial and feminist critiques—focus not on the book itself but rather on other interpretations of the text, illuminating how academic conversations may unintentionally uphold some of the work’s more troubling aspects. As a result, Heart of Darkness is occupying a continuously changing position in the canon of literature.

It is no longer read as a novel that illuminates the depths of human depravity, but rather as an instrument that is the result of this depravity and replicates it in and of itself. Thus, the question arises: Does the Heart of Darkness still belong in the Western canon of literature? If so, will it always be such?

Heart of darkness Important Questions

Question 1

Justify the title of Heart of Darkness, or how does Conrad explore the different shades of meaning of darkness in the novel Heart of Darkness

Title of Heart of Darkness (Novella)

In terms of the title, Joseph Conrad’s novella The Heart of Darkness is highly significant and relevant. It is undoubtedly a tale of darkness on several levels, including the subconscious, moral, intellectual, and spiritual. It is the tale of a sinister character like Mr. Kurtz and his demonic possessions.

The dark continent of Africa is essentially the subject of the title. Literally, it refers to the interior of the territory, which was still being investigated at the time and where life was very simple for the locals. Although many parts of Africa had been discovered and shown on maps by Conrad’s time, the continent was indeed considered the Dark Continent. Conrad paints an image of physical darkness while describing the black continent of Africa, especially the Congo.

The edge of the colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black, fringed with white sulf ran straight like a ruled line, far, far away, along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by creeping mist.

The Congo River is hidden in the thick fog, and there are numerous malevolent forces hiding behind the black shrubs and dense foliage. Everything in the novel is shrouded in darkness. The power of evil’s darkness penetrates even men’s hearts. The Central Station has a decaying, terrible vibe. When Marlow arrives at this station, he discovers a tiny railway- vehicle lying on its own back with its wheels in the air.

The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal.

The Title implies internal darkness as well. The metaphorical darkness of Congo simply alludes to the story’s physical plot, which is without a careful examination of its deeper significance. It is possible to examine Marlow’s tour into the Congo as an investigation into the depths of his own mind. Critics claim that this novella can also be seen as a voyage into Mr. Kurtz’s heart that is a paradigm of darkness.

So sensitive, so civilized-who at the savage center of the jungle sees into the darkness of himself, and dies.

It explores the devilish allure of the human heart. Mr. Kurtz travels to the dark continent of Africa with the intention of enhancing or ameliorating the standard of living for the underprivileged people, but there, he falls prey to demon seduction. He starts to indulge all of his bizarre desires and varied lusts. He completely renounces life’s moral principles. Marlowe claims that Kurtz’s darkness is impenetrable.

He was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.

Heart of Darkness undoubtedly examines Marlow’s or Conrad’s inner thoughts. Our understanding of Marlow’s thoughts is enhanced by his story.

The mind of man is capable of anything because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future

A Nan should have the inner strength to endure the dark realities of human life. He needs a determined belief. Another time in the story, Marlow describes the impact of the gruesome sight of human skulls hanging from the tops of the posts set on the ground outside Mr. Kurtz’s house.  At the end of the novella, Marlow explains how his mind works when multiple people approach him one after another demanding the papers and photo that Mr. Kurtz has given him for safekeeping. He also explains how his mind works when he meets Mr. Kurtz’s Intended.

She took both my hands in hers… for belief for suffering.

Through all of these examples, Marlow’s thoughts and responses to various events are immediately evident to us.

In addition to the things mentioned above, there are numerous other factors that hint at the presence of evil in the story. The inhabitants of the Congo, for instance, are examples of primitivism. With the goal of bringing these natives into the modern world and eradicating the darkness of their primitive lifestyle, Kurtz set out for Africa. Rather, it became useless and resulted in damage.

We can refer to this as darkness manifesting itself in terrible rites. Mr. Kurtz was taken for granted by the locals as their man-god. To maintain him healthy and powerful and prevent Mr. Kurtz from leaving, they carried out the rituals of sacrificing young men. The victims’ skulls were displayed on the pole. Furthermore, Marlow’s encounters with the manager and Kurtz later in the story make us more conscious of the overall darkness in this area. Walton Allen aptly states.

The Heart of Darkness, title is at once the heart of Africa, the heart of evil- everything that is nihilistic, corrupt and malign- and perhaps the heart of men.

Therefore, the title of the story is quite suitable. The plot is overshadowed by the actual and metaphorical darkness and blackness.

Question 2

Symbolism operates throughout Heart of Darkness to create an ethical context for the work.

Symbolism is the use of symbols to symbolize things. It acknowledges a psychological realm inside the mind that comes before the facts and can be communicated using symbols or linguistic embodies. The use of symbols to represent concepts and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings distinct from their literal understanding is known as symbolism.

It can take on various shapes. In most cases, it involves one thing being used to represent another in order to give it a whole another, deeper, and more profound meaning. However, there are situations when a thing, an occurrence, or even a word said by someone may be symbolic. Similar to words, symbols can represent several things depending on the context in which they are employed. For example, a chain can mean both union and imprisonment.

So, someone understands an object’s or action’s symbolic meaning. Where it is used and how. Who reads them could also make a difference. Compression is a characteristic of the most effective storytelling. The writer wants to communicate as much as they can in as few words as possible. Three tools are used to do this: symbolism, allegory, and fantasy.

A literary movement in France during the 1880s, symbolism gained popularity after the publishing of Jean Morris’ manifesto in Le Figaro in 1886. Morris asserted the legitimacy of pure subjectivity and the expression of an idea over a factual account of the natural world in response to the rationality and materialism that had to rule Western European society. Marlow, the protagonist of the novella speaking of England at the start of the novel, says, has been one of the dark places on earth

All great art, according to Joseph Conrad, is primarily symbolic. He stated, a work of art is very seldom limited to one exclusive meaning and does not necessarily tend to a definite conclusion.  Heart of Darkness is replete with symbols. The travel itself has symbolic meaning. Marlow’s journey to the Congo is a metaphor for his journey to hell and flight to the deepest parts of his mind.

We penetrated deeper and deeper into heart of darkness

Conrad used the most effective way of symbols by presenting some characters in a way that they transcend into symbols. Kurtz serves as a metaphor for humanity’s dark side and what being utterly incapacitated may turn you into that. Because of his frequent and prolonged exposure to the wild areas of the Congo, he has lost grip on civilization and the values it stands for.

His dying words, The horror, the horror! put an end to his entire fall. Therefore, Kurtz might be viewed as a representation of humanity’s dark part.  The two female characters who were Kurtz’s intended and his African mistress are the other characters who serve as symbols throughout the novella. They serve as blank spaces for the presentation of the virtues and prosperity of their various communities.

Marlow often asserts that women are the guardians of indigenous illusions. As the local girl represents or symbolizes reality, Kurtz’s Intended becomes a representation of the creatures of illusion. The darkness in Heart of Darkness stands for numerous aspects of reality, human nature, and the degeneration of virtue under impossible conditions.

Marlow frequently uses the word darkness to illustrate how the Congo affected people’s morals and ethics, both literally as in the starred darkness and symbolically. In regard to Kurtz, who Marlow believes has had his moral soul entirely broken by some experience, or perhaps a series of events, in the jungle, he uses it most successfully.

Perhaps Heart of darkness’s most elaborate symbol is Kurtz’s painting. The artwork created by Kurtz represents the entire prevented enterprise. His picture, which Marlow sees, effectively captures the gloom of blindness in a visual manner. The woman carrying the flame in the painting wears blindfolds. The torch is also employed symbolically in Kurtz’s picture.

The torch is unmistakably a representation of European civilization and enlightenment, standing for everything right, proper, and necessary. The Europeans came to Africa to offer education, civilization, savagery, and ignorance, much like a torch that brings light into the dark. This torch serves as both a reminder of European enlightenment and a rationale for the imperial endeavor.

Another significant symbol in Heart of Darkness is the Congo River. This river has snake-like properties, and the serpent represents temptation and wickedness. The river takes Marlow and the other Europeans far into the center of the continent, where many of them fell into temptation (8). In Heart of Darkness, ivory represents human greed and destructiveness.

The company’s managers and representatives are so focused on getting ivory that they lose focus of their principles. So, in this tale, ivory is unmistakably a symbol of greed. Marlow can see the word ivory written in the air even when he reaches the outer station.

It Was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it

Marlow states about Kurtz that he is captivated by the wilderness that had taken him, loved him, embraced him, and consumed his flesh

Other symbols, such as fog and smoke, are presented in addition to them. In the story, bewilderment and mystery are represented by fog and smoke. Marlow’s ship is being followed by a thick fog that only becomes heavier as he approaches the inner station where Kurtz resides.

This mist stands for a fragile company hold. Morality, ethics, and humanity disappear as the ship approaches the center of the indigenous nation, leaving the person consumed by the avaricious character of the task. Their perception of their objective was obscured by the nature of war and authority, which resulted in this darkness and haze.

Eldorado Exploring Expedition, which is run by the manager’s uncle, is the other symbol. This group is a representation of the white people’s pursuit of an impossibly lofty ideal. The Katango Expedition, a real expedition, served as the inspiration for this fictitious one. The fact that the expedition is led by the manager’s uncle shows that it is another instance of white traders looking for riches in the Congo.

They are dismissed by Marlow as “buccaneers,” who do not even pretend to have traveled to Africa for any reason other than to seek out wealth. Heart of Darkness also makes use of the symbol known as the whited sepulcher. The word sepulcher conjures up images of death and captivity, and in fact, Europe is where the colonial endeavor that brought death to white men and their colonial subjects first emerged.

Additionally, it is ruled by a system of social norms that have been reified and that both sanctions cruelty, dehumanization, and evil and forbid reform. The term Whited sepulcher is taken from the book of Matthew in the Bible. Given the hypercritical Belgian rhetoric about imperialism’s civilizing mission, and Mathew’s description of a whited sepulcher as something lovely on the exterior but filled with horrors (dead bodies) inside, the image is fitting for Brussels.

In Heart of Darkness, the rivets stand in for the company’s lack of progress. To fix his steamer and progress in his search for Kurtz, Marlow struggles to obtain them from the firm. Despite the fact that Marlow needs them in order to advance the firm’s interests, the corporation doesn’t seem to be able to supply them.

The rivets represent deterioration and inefficiency, together with other pieces of equipment. Conrad’s use of recurrent symbols demonstrates Jung’s influence. Many objects have both literal and symbolic meanings in addition to their actual meaning. Along with their literal interpretations, the jungle, Marlow’s adventure, and even Kurtz himself offer additional concepts and meanings.

Question 3

Comment on the representation of colonialism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or the colonist bias of the heart of darkness.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Heart of Darkness is one of the most powerful     indictments of colonialism ever written (Frances B.Singh)

He claims that Conrad drew inspiration for the novel from personal experience with imperialism. Conrad suffered as a result of Russia’s colonialist acts in Poland. According to Singh, the Belgian Congo, one of Africa’s most exploited regions, served as the inspiration for Heart of Darkness. Instead of telling the story directly, Conrad employs Marlow.

Marlow’s perceptions of colonialism can be divided into three categories. By contrasting modern colonialism with the Romans’ colonization of ancient Britain, one is demonstrated. The jolly pioneers of development, improved specimen, and noble cause characterize the second class, while the third class is used to protest colonialism.

The description of the native Africans as shapes and bundles of acute angles illustrates the dehumanizing effects of colonialist power on the governed. They are the victims of Belgian exploitation.

The brutality of the previous Congolese colonial system is directly brought to the reader’s attention when interpreting the novel Heart of Darkness. In his widely regarded novel, Joseph Conrad depicts several facets of late 19th-century European perspectives of the African continent. A constant pursuit of building economically successful colonies in many parts of the world defined these eras.

African nations were important in the conflict over European hegemonic ambitions because of the huge array of natural resources they possess. However, there was a certain requirement for moral justification based on ideological conceptions, in addition, to purely business issues. Marlow, the protagonist of the story, reflects the author’s perception of the people and nature of the Congo as well as his perspective on the wisdom or absurdity of colonial rule.

By examining Marlow’s ideas and remarks, it is possible to construct a portrait of Conrad’s thinking and behavioral styles as they emerged during his time as a steamship captain engaged in Belgium’s plan to exploit the natural and human resources of the Congo.

Many critics hold the opinion that Conrad must be judged as being not only a wonderful storyteller but also racist because of the act’s excellent narrative technique and the subtle attempt to disclose Conrad’s motives, which is represented, among others, by the well-known Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.

In fact, there are several passages in the novel that support Achebe’s assertion, such as when Marlow says of the people of the Congo,

They were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it – this suspicion of their not being inhuman …the thought of their humanity – like yours – the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly

This raises a more general question of how closely Marlow’s philosophy aligns with the mainstream European understanding of Africa at the time in terms of race. In this situation, comparing the opinions of the idealistic young Marlow and the ivory merchant Mr. Kurtz would help us comprehend the fundamental principle that colonial perspectives were typically marked by a racist ideology. But what else ought to be taken into account before we examine the perspectives of the protagonists?

As previously noted, the exploitation of the material and intangible property of another nation needs a specific explanation. Colonists left their homes for a perilous journey abroad not only because they saw the potential for bringing more wealth and prosperity to Europe, but also because they wanted to carry out a noble mission.

The novel is set at the height of colonialism when Britain was the most powerful colonial nation on the planet. While the majority of the rest of the globe was thought to be populated by savages, Britain and the other European powers were regarded as being civilized. The novel is filled with those images. It was suffocating for Marlow.

In some inland post feel the savagery, real or imagined, had closed round him….

As Marlow says, After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings. Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards greater things, a center for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, and instructing, according to the ideological background represented by Mr. Kurtz.

The expressed inclination to humanize etc., which is simply another word for civilized, is based on the idea that African peoples are less intelligent than Europeans. In his report for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, Mr. Kurtz enters into greater detail about this issue, stating that.

We whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, must necessarily appear to them in the nature of supernatural beings – we approach them with the might of a deity.

The Belgian colonizers believed that the subjection of the Congolese for economic reasons also provided a significant benefit to this central African nation by allowing them to come into frequent touch with people from civilized society and learn about how they perceived themselves. The intercultural contact scenario between colonists and colonized was determined by this pseudo-human approach.

Question 4

Elaborate autobiographical element in Heart of Darkness

The most well-known of Joseph Conrad’s own works, Heart of Darkness, is a pilgrim’s journey in a psychologically pessimistic age. Conrad said, Before the Congo, I was just a mere animal, after finishing the primary text of the novel. Conrad appears to have been significantly impacted by both the living horror of 1890 and Andre Gide’s Congo ordeal 36 years later.

The story’s autobiographical foundation is well known, and its introspective bias is clear. Conrad has been on his longest journey within. However, it is important to keep in mind that Heart of Darkness is also an insightful, vivid travelogue and a critique of the vilest scramble for loss that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration.

Conrad drew inspiration for Heart of Darkness from his own life experiences. Conrad’s firsthand experiences during his 1890 trip to the Congo are documented in this work. Conrad had a yearning for travel and adventure as a boy. When he was just nine years old while studying an old map of Africa, he thought to himself:

When I grow up, I shall go there

The protagonist Marlow in Heart of Darkness also shares with his companions while they are on the deck of a steamboat that he was naturally attracted to the African nation of the Congo as a young lad and that the river Congo that flows through that nation held a special attraction for him.

Conrad sought the assistance of an aunt who was a novelist by profession, to travel to the Congo. Through her influence, Conrad was able to secure a job with a trading firm as the captain of a steamboat that would transport an expedition team led by Alexandre Delcommune to a region of the Congo known as Katanga.

Conrad was quite excited at the possibility of traveling to the place where he had always wanted to go. Conrad’s joy, however, was badly marred by a dispute he had with Alexandre Delcommune’s brother, who was working as a manager for the same trade company at a trading station along the route.

The brother of Alexandre Delcommune takes over as Central Station manager in Heart of Darkness. Because Conrad had formed a negative opinion of Alexandre Delcommune’s brother, with whom Conrad had argued, Marlow makes extremely disparaging remarks about the manager of the Central Station. Through the influence of her aunt, Marlow also obtains the position of captain of a riverboat.

After taking a job on a steamship, Conrad’s primary responsibility was to deliver one of the Company’s agents whose health had been deteriorating. This agent’s name was Klein. Later, while being transported aboard Conrad’s ship, he passed away. In Heart of Darkness, it was this agent, Klein, who was changed into Mr. Kurtz.

Conrad encountered a number of terrible situations during his trip to the Congo, which he recorded in a journal that he called the Congo Diary. Marlow also documents the terrible consequences of the Congo’s climate on the white traders and agents whom the Belgian Companies sent to this area.

In addition, Marlow goes through a similar process of maturation via disappointment and failure to that which Conrad himself went through while traveling in the Congo. Because Marlow’s experiences and feelings are largely the same as Conrad’s own had been, it must be acknowledged that Heart of Darkness is, to a large extent, an autobiographical work. Conrad’s Congo Diary and the material in the novella Heart of Darkness have a lot in common, which supports this argument.

A critic once called Conrad’s experiences in the Congo aggravating, frustrating, and humiliating; Marlow’s encounters with the majority of the white men in the Congo are of a similar nature. Marlow experiences a severe personal crisis, which is very similar to the one Conrad himself, went through in the Congo.

In conclusion, it is important to note that Marlow and Conrad share a lot of similarities in terms of their outlook on life and philosophies. In the novella, Marlow is depicted as a pessimist; Conrad himself shared this outlook. Similar to Conrad, Marlow acknowledges that certain virtues exist in people. But overall, Conrad had developed certain pessimistic beliefs about life, and Marlow also reflects these beliefs.

Marlow generally has an unfavorable and depressing response to the individuals he encounters while traveling, and Conrad also felt the same way about the people he encountered. Despite having four of his friends in front of him to whom he narrates his story, Marlow is really a lonely, isolated figure; Conrad was also a lonely figure. Marlow thus experiences the same fate as Conrad, both outside and in terms of inner mental life.

We live in flickers…. May it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday

Question 5

Explain the various themes prevailing in Heart of Darkness

Themes are broad concepts and convictions that authors convey in their works of poetry, fiction, and theatre. Many themes in Heart of Darkness are interconnected with one another. Joseph Conrad frequently returns to recurrent themes while using vague terminology.


Imperialism is one of Heart of Darkness’ central themes. In reality, imperialism is the European colonization of nations on the continents of Asia and Africa in search of resources. It was, however, masked by the phrase spreading civilization. Marlow acknowledges that taking the land of Africans is wrong.

Kurtz, who is currently in Congo trying to civilize the people, was involved in the ivory trade and horrifying primeval rites that featured human sacrifice in order to satisfy the native Africans. Marlow writes about the effects of imperialism while traveling through the heart of Africa.

White Man’s burden

The irony of Marlow’s journey and its goal is another major subject in the novel. He travels to meet Kurtz, the well-liked station manager, in Congo. The phrase white man’s burden by Kipling wrings in his ears, but he sees the opposite.

Mr. Kurtz and other white people have been killing native people in order to take their resources. On the poles around the station where Mr. Kurtz is staying, there are heads built. Marlow considers his journey to be a “heavenly mission” of a white man to spread Christianity’s illumination in the darkness.

Lack of Truth

Imperialism and the brutality of the European powers are the novel’s superficial topics. However, the central theme is the absence of truth. While portraying their involvement in Africa as a civilizing mission, all European nations there are conquering the continent and looting its resources. Marlow claims that there are a number of omissions that divert away from the truth of things. Marlow’s use of ironic language from the beginning occasionally demonstrates his inability to communicate the truth. To avoid disappointing Kurtz’s intended, who was hoping Kurtz would mention her name before dying, he ultimately reveals another falsehood.


Colonization is the process of establishing dominance over an area’s native population. This subject and a variety of other themes in Heart of Darkness are parallel. Conrad’s spokesperson Marlow makes it plain in one of the scenarios that conquering the globe entails taking it away from people who have a different complexion. In other words, he’s saying that Europeans believe they belong to a superior race. Through colonialism, they plunder their territory and ultimately plunder its resources. In other words, Marlow says.

Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.


The primary trade along the Congo River is ivory. Marlow, though, denies the extent of the violent exploitation that took place in the name of trade and refuses to acknowledge it. Only the postscript of Kurtz’s Exterminate all brutes highlights the reality of the trade and those involved, and indirect terms like horror are used to refer to it.

Marlow is actually a part of this exploitation as well, as the locals are deceived and hypnotized by Kurtz. Along with assaulting anyone who isn’t in line with the main agent, Kurtz, they are also tempted to assault the steamboat carrying Marlow. Locals are killed in these attacks more frequently than in the targeted area. After Kurtz’s death, the abuse persisted.

 Racial Inequality

The novel Heart of Darkness demonstrates how prevalent racial injustice is throughout the world, including Africa. Marlow is also aware that different complexions and flattened noses signify that Europeans were given permission to usurp the territory from that race. Marlow also referred to the residents, including the intended of Kurtz, as savages.

She explains to him how racial discrimination led white men to make plans for civilizing those barbarians. When Kurtz passes away, the words of Kipling, the White man’s burden, resound, alluding to the atrocities he performed against the African people.

Isolation and Alienation

Although alienation and isolation are frequently thought of as mental problems that affect a person, both psychological and social alienation and isolation are discussed in the novel Heart of Darkness. Marlow’s departure is an allusion to his attempts to lose his humanity due to social alienation and solitude.

Due to his attempts to blend in with the locals, Kurtz is the best illustration of this alienation. When he realizes the consequences of his actions, his final horrors outburst completes his alienation. This alienation and seclusion are further confirmed by Marlow’s original Buddha-like standing.

Moral Deceit

Another overarching subject in the novel Heart of Darkness is moral degeneration. To educate the locals, Kurtz travels to the Congo. He does, however, rise to the position of top agent for the business, helping to export ivory and deprive the villagers of their wealth. He engages in unethical behavior by punishing people who disagree with him and elevating himself to their deity. Marlow observes numerous little agents engaging in identical behaviors at the other locations, where the same is happening.


Violence comes in two forms; the first is cruelty that is incited. For instance, Kurtz encourages the locals to assault Marlow, a steamship. The second is the fighting between the natives and the heads on sticks that are seen near Kurtz’s residence. Here, Kurtz, who makes the notion that he can transform savages, has turned savage. He controls the locals through violence, robbing them, and punishing them if they get in the way of white men’s affairs.

Human Greed and Deception

In reference to the ivory trade that threatens the independence and lives of native Africans, Marlow claims to have witnessed the devil of greed and the devil of hot desire. European businesses have been fighting with one another to find and harvest gems as quickly as possible. They massacre innocent people and go to murder innocents using violence. When Kurtz displays heads on the poles around his station, it is easy to observe the bits of proof of human greed and deceit.

Question 6

Is Heart of Darkness a political Allegory

Heart of Darkness, a novella by Joseph Conrad is not a political allegory in the real sense but there are some allegorical shortcuts that can be seen throughout the novel.

The Sepulchral city

Marlow must visit the Company’s offices in Brussels before departing for Africa to sign his agreement.

He claims that the city always makes [him] think of a whited sepulcher.

Marlow dismisses the remark in his customary manner, labeling it a prejudice no doubt, and quickly moves on with the narrative. But there is every justification for stopping. A biblical allusion is made when “a whited sepulcher” is mentioned. In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus sharply criticized the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy and compared them to white-washed tombs:

By using a biblical reference, Conrad suggests that beneath Brussels’ dazzling exterior, there is something rotten and dirty that lies at the very center of civilization. Like the Pharisees, colonialism’s representatives are keen to portray an image of righteousness; but, while they speak only of enlightenment, altruism, and growth, their deeds are sinister, egotistical, and unjust.

Under the middle of a towering building, there is not only hidden wickedness but also evidence of death and emptiness: the streets are “deserted,” “in deep shadow,” and there is “a dead quiet.” Additionally, “grass sprouting between the stones” demonstrates that a suppressed Nature that will not be brought under control is in addition to the concealed immorality on which the civilized varnish is painted

The company headquarters

Conrad permits Marlow to make yet another allusion to Matthew as they enter the Company’s offices, describing the staircase as clean and ungarnished:

When a person’s unclean spirit has left them, he walks through dry areas looking for rest but finds none. He then says, “I’ll go back into my house from where I came out,” and when he arrives, he finds it clean, vacant, and decorated. Then he leaves and brings with him seven more spirits who are even eviler than himself, and they enter and live there, bringing about the man’s worst situation yet. The same will apply to this evil generation.

It is impossible to tell if Conrad purposefully departed from the original, but the use of the word “ungarnished” in place of the original word garnished may have been done to emphasize the feeling of emptiness and make the office stairs appear even more inviting to evil spirits than the house in the biblical parallel. In any event, the reference makes it apparent that one could consider the Company’s offices as a hub of evil and even as the heart of Darkness.

The building’s description by Marlow gives weight to this notion. One is reminded of the human heart by the double doors and archways right and left, as well as the two rooms, the waiting room and the sanctuary (14). The pulmonary valve flaps divide the atrium and ventricle into two rooms, and archways on the right and left connect them.

With this representation, the firm can be compared to a heart of darkness, a heart of wickedness, pumping people to Africa in an effort to advance civilization and enlightenment while secretly harboring a desire to plunder. Conrad uses harsh words to describe the Belgian expedition in the Congo in Geography and some explorers, one of his final essays, calling it the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience. These are similar to the ones Jesus uses to address the Pharisees in the first passage from Matthew above.

Black wool knitters

There are traces of the picture of the knitting machine, which Conrad referenced in his letters to Graham, as well as other images that are used to describe the Company’s offices in addition to the image of the wicked heart. Two women, one thin and young and the other fat and old, are both seated “on straw-bottomed chairs knitting black wool” in the outer chamber.

The younger knitter’s actions are described quite mechanically; she “got up and walked straight at me while still knitting with downcast eyes, and only just as I began to think off getting out of her way, stood still, and looked up, turned around without a word and preceded me into a waiting room”. Later, she is shown as endlessly introducing the unknown while travelling repeatedly back and forth.

The elderly knitter, who passively observes everyone who enters the room and gives them a quick glance, can also be viewed as a cog in the cosmic knitting machine, representing a component of the impersonal mechanical forces of the universe that knits us in and knits us out. Conrad paints a picture of the continent of Africa being pumped with evil by a heart of Darkness at the center of Europe.

There is also the drawing of the enormous knitting machine as it appears in the letters to Graham, which is connected to this vision but operates on a bigger scale and encompasses everything that is. The importance of Marlow addressing the knitter in the Coliseum with the gladiator’s salutation, “Ave! Old knitter of black wool,” is clear from this. It can be interpreted as a remark or a fearless declaration of defiance directed at the indifferent, blind “knitting machine” that arbitrarily determines our fates.

Marlow’s statement that the latter “thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness” while in Africa lends credence to the idea that the Company’s offices in Europe house the heart of Darkness (14).

The grove of death

When Marlow arrives at the Company’s station, he finds horrifying evidence of contamination and degradation, including “bits of decaying machinery,” an objectless blasting,” and an undersized railway truck lying on its back with its wheels in the air. When he enters a wood, he discovers

Suddenly, he finds himself in a setting like a hideous hell: “It seemed to me I had stepped into the dismal circle of some Inferno,” he says. “Those who are ready to die to greet you”. Marlow discovers a number of exhausted members of the native labor force who “had retired to die” in the forest, which is subsequently referred to as “the grove of death.

In a dehumanizing manner, they are described as moribund shapes, black bones reclined at full length with one shoulder against the tree, and bundles of acute angles. Additionally, they are described as being “scattered in every pose of contorted collapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence” throughout the grove.

However, the text is making other references as well. Lillian Feder draws comparisons between Heart of Darkness and the sixth book of Virgil’s Aeneid in her article “Marlow’s fall into Hell”. On a deeper level, both stories deal with moral dilemmas, the nature of evil, and the protagonist’s probing of “the depths of his own and his nation’s conscience.” Like Aeneas, Marlow has an unburied predecessor, both stories lose their helmsman, and the word “gloom” is frequently used to create a somber and obscure mood.

The grove is yet another significant analogy. Aeneas hears the Sibyl in Trivia’s or Diana’s grove in the sixth book of the Aeneid, and the location of the tree with the golden bough is a “neighboring grove. The Golden Bough by Frazer and the Aeneid, when read together, can help to clarify a mysterious aspect of Heart of Darkness:

Kurtz’s sketch in oil

At the Central Station, Marlow notices an oil sketch and learns that it was created by Kurtz. It depicts “a woman carrying a lit torch while draped and blindfolded”. In the cult of Diana, fire played a significant role, according to Frazer: “Her grove sparkled with a multitude of flames”. Diana can be identified as the woman Kurtz painted.

“The human sacrifices once offered to Diana” are also significant for understanding the picture. The grove, which served as a site for human sacrifices to Diana in Frazer’s Golden Bough, serves as a site for colonial sacrifices in Heart of Darkness. The native African population is viewed as a material resource that can be sacrificed for the greater gain of civilization and enlightenment.

However, the blindfold successfully refutes the purported enlightenment and indicates that the colonial enterprise’s agents are blind and not at all emissaries of light but rather of darkness. Additionally, the picture suggests that women are also among colonialism’s actors.

But the real question is whether Kurtz is the one who brought about the gloom. Is Kurtz not also a victim of the darkness brought forth by a rapacious and morally depraved Europe? Kurtz’s Intended is described by Baker as the symbol of a fatally distorted European society, and Conrad also allows Marlow to say that Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.

This interpretation is consistent with the idea that the Company’s offices in Brussels are the very center of Darkness. It also receives some support from Marlow’s emphasis on the human race’s gluttony and greed upon his return to the city of the dead at the conclusion of the story.

Question 7

Describe the character sketch of Marlow

Charles Marlow, the protagonist of Joseph Conrad’s works, was developed as a literary device to give his story form and shape. He is one of the two narrators in the current novel Heart of Darkness. The first one only serves as Marlow’s introduction and fades into the background, speaking only infrequently when Marlow pauses his narration or becomes lost in some deep thought.

Heart of Darkness is, as is well known and documented, the account of Conrad’s own trip to the Congo. Therefore, it might be claimed that Marlow fulfills the role that Conrad did on the real journey in the novella. Through him, Conrad may examine the brutal exploitation of locals of the Congo and the degradation of Mr. Kurtz. Although there are some significant differences between the two people, Marlow is actually another self of Conrad.

Marlow moralizes in the sense in which Conrad decidedly does not

At the start of the novel, the narrator describes Marlow as a man….

Sitting cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast, he had sunken cheeks,  a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect with his arms dropped, the palm of hands outward resembled and an idol.

Marlow’s personality has a strong Asian influence. He adds meditation as a vital element. a calm individual who has fully detached himself from the physical world. He serves as a moral guide for readers when they are faced with hypocrisies, conflicts, and imperialism because he is both a philosopher and a realist.

Readers are set to see Marlow as an intelligent and caring person, an observant and trustworthy observer, and a man profoundly touched by his experience with Kurtz as he tells his story. He articulates a philosophical truth: we live as we dream alone. He makes reference to the isolation of man in the universe, which eventually became the main theme of contemporary literature.

Marlow is undoubtedly smart, eloquent, and a natural philosopher, but he can also be considered a psychologist. He is capable of evaluating the thoughts of people. With admiration for Mr. Kurtz and tremendous psychological clarity, he describes and analyses the Russian’s personality. Additionally, he paints realistic portraits of the people he meets.

Young Marlow is a brave and daring man. The nature of his journey and adventure might be used to illustrate this. He traveled to a very primitive, deep jungle in the Congo. He had no idea how the locals would view him. Despite all of these difficulties, he agreed to complete this assignment. He was a young man who was also determined.

Even in the face of numerous obstacles, he remained committed to realizing his dream of meeting Mr. Kurtz at home. He was also a very sensitive and compassionate person since, despite having the option to return home alone, he didn’t. He can be considered a middleman (mediator) between the two extremes—colonizing Europe and exploiting Africa—between the light of civilization and the darkness of primitivism.

He is the mediator of the show, the ultimate compromiser, who somehow does not give up his own views. He is balanced enough for the reader to relate to him while still being open-minded enough to relate to either extreme to some extent. He serves as the guide for the audience. Marlow clearly enjoys the beauty of the countryside. He enjoys being outside.  The Congolese forest is described by him in dramatic detail as follows:

The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark green as to be almost black, fringed with white sulf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea, whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist.

He imagines a white sepulcher when he sees the metropolis. This demonstrates Marlow’s discontent with urban living. Marlow is therefore undeniably a guy of action who enjoys philosophical thought. He tends to meditate and has a keen mind. to reflect on what he sees as well.

Question 8

Explain the character of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness

The most significant character in Heart of Darkness is Kurtz.   This enigmatic persona is introduced to us through various circumstances and other people. His part is a collection of images that other people have made.

His father was half-French and his mother was half-English. He had his education in England and other countries, and he was a brilliant genius. He was portrayed by Conrad as a competent agent, artist, journalist, musician, brilliant conversationalist, and great man who could win the hearts of the locals.

He was given the task of writing the report by the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs for his future direction, and it was incredibly powerful when it was finished. Almost everyone has a favorable and occasionally high impression of Kurtz since he has had a unique effect on each person’s life.

Marlow is informed by his cousin that Kurtz was a genius and a great humanitarian in addition to being a great musician. Another depiction of Kurtz is provided by the Belgian journalist. He describes him as a brilliant leader and politician. His intended regarded Kurtz as a loving, devoted, and caring individual. She was definitely unaware that he was cheating on her with an African-native woman.

It is aptly said

Mr. Kurtz – so sensitive, so civilized- who at the savage center of the jungle; sees into the darkness of himself and dies.

It is hard to comprehend how Kurtz, who appears to be so exclusive and isolated from the rest of society, managed to connect with so many people. He may not have fully let anyone get to know him, which could be the cause of this. He allowed individuals to view whatever they chose.

Kurtz is introduced by the Company’s accountant in Heart of Darkness. The accountant tells Marlow that he will meet Kurtz when he travels to the country’s interior as soon as he gets there. The accountant stated that Mr. Kurtz is an excellent agent for the Company and a very wonderful individual.

The mason has nothing but praise for Kurtz. He claims,

Mr. Kurtz is a prodigy and an emissary of pity of science of progress and devil knows of what else

He also informs Marlow that someone like Mr. Kurtz is required for the illumination of such dark countries as the Congo since he is a person of exceptional knowledge, broad sympathies, and unwavering commitment. Additionally, he expects Kurtz to take over as assistant manager of the Company’s biggest station. Kurtz had great hopes and dreams when he arrived in the desolate land. His time here served as a kind of personality test, testing his high ideals against the evil forces of nature. Kurtz failed this exam. He not only lost his humanity, but he also betrayed the locals, depriving them of their dignity and will and reducing them to poverty and servitude.

But he was reduced to a hollow man himself. The main reason for Kurtz’s degeneration is his complete lack of discipline. Additionally, he is cut off from his society’s support and restraint in the inner station. Nothing could stop him in this wilderness. But there’s no denying that he had a sense of adventure. Kurtz went beyond in his exploration, in contrast to the agents who initially rejected the task of the barren desert. He thinks that Kurtz has…

An extinguishable of noble and lofty expression

The last words Kurtz utters before dying are “the horror! the horror!” and serve as a judgment of the experiences his spirit has had while on earth. Marlow, though, believes that these words convey some type of commitment. They exhibit sincerity and conviction and can be seen as an affirmation and a moral triumph over all of Kurtz’s numerous setbacks during his life.

Kurtz is a metaphor for the White man’s greed and commercial mentality as a result. He might also be interpreted as a representation of the hypocrisy of trying to civilize the apes. He also stands for the love of power and the desire of European men to reign over the underclasses of the world, even at the cost of basic human values. He first arrived in the Congo to explore it, but soon his goal changed to acquiring ivory.

His greed emerges as a result of this. However, it is clear that Kurtz had some moral sensibility. He continues to be aware of his cruel exploitation of the indigenous. He enjoyed being treated almost like a deity by them, but this was soon followed by his moral consciousness growing. As a result, Kurtz might be understood as a white man who is aware of his dark side even though he is a victim of repugnant primitivism. If Kurtz did fall, it was likely from a great height, and Marlow sees Kurtz’s fall as a sign of dominance.

About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

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