Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. First Published 1899. Published 1973 by Penguin BooksWhy?I chose to read the Heart of Darkness as I had heard much good about Joseph Conrad and his other books. My father told me that Conrad is regarded to be one of the best authors of all time, language wise, and this really peaked my interest. As I have also seen and really liked the movie Apocolypse Now which is based upon this very book.
SummaryThe story centers around the sailor Charles Marlow, who while_onboard a moored ship on the Thames River in London recounts to the narrator his extraordinary journey up the Congo river. He quickly establishes a parallel between the two rivers and uses them as contrasting representations of the civilized Britain and the “dark” uncivilized Africa. As Marlow tells, he was assigned by a company trading ivory in Congo to take command of a cargo boat stranded in the interior.
Moving deeper into the treacherous jungle, he treks from the Outer Station to the Central Station and then onwards by steamboat to the Inner Station. Along the river he witnesses the brutalization of African natives by European traders and hears tantalizing rumours of a particularly successful ivory trader, Mr. Kurtz, who is managing a trading station far up the river. Mr. Kurtz is supposedly unwell, and so Marlow sets off to find him. The passage through the African heartland, by steamboat, is long and slow.
Marlow is filled with a growing sense of dread as the boat is attacked by African natives, killing some of his crew. Incrementally, Marlow learns more about the mysterious Kurtz, his civilized traits (poetry etc.) his god-like status and power over the natives, and the severed heads that surround his hut. Upon arrival Marlow concludes that, in this alien context, no longer restricted by his own culture, Kurtz has gone mad, become a local tyrant, and exchanged his honor and any humanitarian values he initially had upon his arrival in Africa for greed and power. His reign of terror is soon to end, however, as Kurtz is mortally ill.
On his deathbed, Kurtz whispers to Marlow, “The horror! The horror!” seemingly acknowledging the human depravity they have witnessed, the heart of darkness. Marlow returns to Belgium to deliver Kurtz’s papers to the trading company with a report he had written for “The Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs” but with Kurtz’s handwritten postscript “Exterminate all the brutes!” ripped off. Last of all he visits Kurtz’s fiancée, giving her a lie about Kurtz’s final words, saying he died proclaiming her name. The lie and the whole experience disgusts Marlow with himself.CharactersCharles Marlow is a sailor, presented by the narrator as “a meditated Buddha”, having become wise and philosophic as a result of his experiences in the Congo.
When young, Marlow dreamed of exploring the “blank spaces” on the map, always longing for adventure. His journey up the Congo, however, was anything but a thrill and it taught him about the “heart of darkness” in all men. The chief qualities of Marlow include his curiosity and skepticism. He is always looking for an underlying meaning in what others may see as an innocent remark. Though he is not always an honorable truthseeker as he ultimately lies to Kurtz’s widow to spare her feelings. Furthermore he chooses to return to his home in Europe, despite him being convinced by what he saw in Congo that the modern civilization is formed to channel power for those in charge.Could you expand what you say in the last sentence somewhat.
Through the progression of the story, Marlow becomes sensitive and aware of his surroundings and the “darkness” they may hide. On his arrival to the Outer Station he is shocked by the utter disregard for human life he sees. This makes it difficult to integrate back into the European society, having seen the horrors that sustain it.Where and when?Heart of Darkness takes place in The exact time period is not stated in the book, but it seems to take place at the time Conrad is writing it in, namely the late 1890s. This assumption is helped by the fact that Marlow, the main character, is based on Conrad himself, who was a steamboat captain in the interior of the Congo during the early 1890s. He wrote the book immediately after his return.
During this time, the British Empire was especially focused on African colonization and trade. Heart of Darkness centers around the ivory trade along the Congo river, which was huge during the late 1800s. In addition, the novel clearly illustrates the British view of native Africans during that time.
They were viewed as savages who needed to be brought under control, and certainly not as people. The attitudes of the white men in the novel all reflect this.Please double check the accuracy of that paragraph since the Congo was at that time owned by the Belgian kind / Belgium; but apart from that your comment about the British Empire is correct.