Heart of Darkness
By: Joseph Conrad1. The story is centered around the main character Marlow. The rising action begins as he joins a Belgium trading company in the Congo as a sailor in hopes of meeting a man named Kurtz. His journey begins along the Thames river and takes him up to the Congolese river. As he is traveling to the central station he witnesses the horrors within the Company. There are workers that are underfed being treated poorly and overworked by their European overseers leading Marlow to think that the African atmosphere is causing the men to lose their sense of humanity. When he arrives at the Central Station he finds out that his boat has been sunk so he spends three months repairing it as his desire of meeting Kurtz increases. Once Marlow gets the parts he needs in order to repair the ship he sets off on the difficult journey up river joined by the manager of the central station, some agents, and some cannibals. On their way up river a thick fog rolls in and as soon it clears up they are attacked by the arrows of natives. One of the arrows kills the African Helmsman before Marlow scares the native away with the steam engine whistle. Marlow and his crew later arrive at Kurtz's Inner Station where they expect to find him dead because it was rumored that he was very ill. Someone came out of the station and assured Marlow that he was not dead. Expecting to finally get the chance to meet the brilliant mind of Kurtz, the climax begins when Marlow realizes that Kurtz left his European style of humanity behind and established himself as a god among the native savages. Obviously still very ill, Marlow takes Kurtz on the boat for the night before they plan to leave in the morning. Marlow realizes that Kurtz went missing and finds him crawling on all fours toward the village of the natives. Marlow finds him and encourages him to return to the boat. Marlow finds out that Kurtz ordered the natives to attack the steam boat earlier in hopes that Marlow and his crew would turn back and let him finish his business with the natives, but Kurtz's plan was unsuccessful. Now on the boat, Kurtz's illness is causing him to talk in riddles. The falling action takes place as Kurtz entrusts Marlow with his documents that explain his legacy. Soon after, Kurtz dies which causes Marlow's health to fail. He barely makes it back to civilization before his health begins to return. Once finished with his voyage, he refuses to give the company Marlow's documents and instead gives them to his fiance. The author wrote this after a trip to the Congo so this story was inspired by his travels and is meant to portray the madness that imperialistic companies in the Congo has created.
2. The theme is madness as a result of imperialism. The book portrays all of the people that work for the company in the Congo as almost savages themselves; succumbing to their savage surrounding and losing their sense of humanity.
3. The tone was uncertain, the narrator sees the results of the company and it's affect on people but can't help continuing his same path.
- "Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth!…The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires."
- "They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness."
- "I had then, as you remember, just returned to London after a lot of Indian Ocean, Pacific, China Seas - a regular dose of the East - six years or so, and I was loafing about, hindering you fellows in your work and invading your homes, just as though I had got a heavenly mission to civilize you."
- Historical reference to El Dorado: "Eldorado Exploring Expedition." Ch. 1 p. 72
- Biblical reference to Matthew 23:27-28, "a whited sepulchre." Ch. 1 p. 22
- Symbolism, flies symbolize death. "A continuous shower of small flies streamed upon the lamp, upon the cloth, upon our hands and faces." Ch3 p. 44
- Motif, the story is always leading back to darkness. "It had become a place of darkness." Ch. 1 p. 10 " The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds...seemed to lead into the heart of an
immense darkness."p. 113
- Imagery, "The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds." Ch. 1 p. 4
- Diction, the language and word choice used has a huge impact on the author's purpose. "The simple old sailor, with his talk of chains and purchases, made me forget the jungle and the pilgrims in a delicious sensation of having come upon something unmistakably real."Ch. 2 p. 9
- Personification, "Flames glided in the river." Ch. 1 p.9
- Simile, "Swept and ungarnished staircase, as arid as a desert." Ch.1 p.14
- Simile, “I watched the fog for the signs of lifting as a cat watches a mouse.”p.62
- Imagery, "In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in
the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished spirits." p. 1
1. Direct characterization is the process of conveying information about characters in narratives by means of description, through their actions, speech, or thoughts.
Examples: "Marlow was not typical." p.9 "This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man." The author mainly uses direct characterization to develop Kurtz's character because we don't meet him until the second half of the story even though he is introduced way before he is met.
In indirect characterization, characters are presented by means of description, through their actions, speech, or thoughts. The author uses indirect characterization to develop Marlow's character because he is the narrator of the story so we get to learn about him through his thoughts and actions.
Examples: “I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say." " I know nothing as to the fate of the less valuable animals."
2. When Marlow is talking to Kurtz the diction changes a little because he struggles to find words. The story is told in the past tense so other than dialogue, the syntax and diction doesn't change to much.
3. The protagonist Marlow is a dynamic character and he is very rounded, as he tells his story of going into "the heart of darkness" to his crew mates, we learn more about him as he talks of his experiences. We also learn about how his experiences changed and affected him.
4. I felt like I met Marlow because as he was telling his story, the audience could read into his thoughts, feelings and emotions. As he got deeper into telling his story, his character became more real and the audience could sympathize for him and what he was going through.
“I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. . . . He had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man.”