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Who Should Read “Heart of Darkness”? And Why?
“Heart of Darkness” is a story about an ivory transporter called Marlow, who travels up the Congo to meet a man named the Kurtz, who has risen to be a god-like figure among the natives, and is known as a man of great abilities.
On his way, he sees how the lives of the natives have changed under the hand of the Europeans.
This is a story of greed, darkness, and exploitation, and we recommend it to readers who like reading dark introspective stories.
Joseph Conrad Biography
Joseph Conrad was a Polish author, who is considered as one of the best English-writing authors. His writing is amazing, especially when you think about how English was not his first language.
Known as a significant work of English literature and part of the Western canon, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad tell a story of Charles Marlow, an introspective sailor who took an assignment as a riverboat captain from a Belgian trading company.
Marlow is a riverboat captain at the Company (at least, he becomes one, as the book starts), which is a Belgian trade company in the Congo.
He is our “ticket” to seeing the brutal situation in Africa: the natives of the area are enslaved and work, despite the mistreatment and bad working conditions, for the Company.
It all starts as Marlow sets foot at the Central station after his steamship has been sunk. So, he has to wait there for the ship to be repaired.
During this time, he learns more about a legendary-like figure, Kurtz, that everyone fears and talks about.
The manager of Central Station seems to fear him as well since he sees him as a threat that could endanger his position.
The rumors say that Kurtz is ill.
As the ship’s repairs are over, Marlow, the manager, a crew of cannibals and a few other agents start their journey up the Congo.
The voyage is long and far from easy. The dense jungle is everywhere, and so is the profound silence, which makes everyone feel at the edge of their seats.
Some time in their journey, the crew comes across a hut near which firewood is stacked. Next, to it, there is a note saying that the wood is for them.
They load the firewood into the steamboat, and shortly after they finish the job, the boat sinks into a thick fog.
As the fog lifts, they are attacked by natives, who fire at them from the forest, so they cannot be seen.
Marlow manages to scare them off with the steam whistle.
After some time, they arrive at the Inner Station, where Kurtz is.
Everyone expects that he is already dead, but they are assured that he is all right. The Russian trader that meets them upon their arrival and breaks them the news tells them that he is the one that left the wood for them.
Marlow notices from the behavior and telling of the Russian that Kurtz is considered as a god among the natives, and has used his position to raid the territory for ivory.
Around the station, there is a fence made of severed heads, which he uses to scare off anyone who wants to defy him.
The men take Kurtz out of his room on a stretcher to take him to the ship.
The natives come out of the woods, and surrounds him, as he addresses them. Then, he is brought aboard the steamship.
He is quite ill.
In the meantime, Marlow sees a beautiful woman walking down the shore, and constantly staring at their direction – at the ship.
The Russian speaks about her, revealing that she got involved with Kurtz as his mistress, and influenced his way of thinking, causing trouble.
In fact, Kurtz is the one who ordered the attack the steamship went through, hoping that if they get attacked, they will get discouraged thinking he has already passed away. That way, they might return where they came from, and he might be left to accomplish all of his plans.
Marlow swears that he will keep it a secret.
That night, Kurtz disappears for a moment, but Marlow notices and goes out to search for him.
He finds him crawling in the direction of the native camp.
He tries to talk to him, and in the end, convinces him to go back to the steamer.
The next morning, they depart down the river. Meanwhile, Kurtz’s health is getting worse.
Marlow is put in a situation where he listens to Kurtz’s philosophies and is entrusted with some of his personal documents.
Among these documents is also a pamphlet about exterminating “the brutes” by civilizing the savages.
On their trip, the steamer faces some kind of problem, and they have to stop it in order to repair it.
However, it is too late, since Kurtz’s health is already too bad, and he dies, by saying “The horror! The horror!” as his last words to Marlow.
Marlow is confused. He gets sickish afterward but survives the illness.
Heart of Darkness Epilogue
After his return to Europe, Marlow visits Kurtz’s fiancé.
Ths scene is quite impressive. She is still in mourning, and when talking about him, she elevates him as a model of achievement and human virtue.
She asks Marlow to tell her what his last words were.
He contemplates telling her the truth, but he cannot bring himself to it.
So, instead of breaking her illusions of the man she was supposed to marry, he tells her that she uttered her name right before he died.
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Heart of Darkness QuotesWe live as we dream--alone... Click To Tweet It was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. Click To Tweet Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. Click To Tweet He struggled with himself, too. I saw it -- I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself. Click To Tweet The mind of man is capable of anything. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
I first got introduced to “Heart of Darkness” in school. Having to write a thesis about it, I explored its deeper meaning and all its characters to great detail, and it still continues to exist in my mind as one of the greatest stories I have read.
If you decide to read the book, read the analysis afterward as well. The story itself is entertaining, but knowing a little about history and the meanings it has hidden inside, is going to make your experience that much better!