Heart of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad1. Born on December 3, 1857 in Berdychiv, Ukraine2. Left for Marseille, France in 1874 to pursue seamancareer3. Served in British merchant navy from 1878 until 18944. Signed to go to the Congo in Africa in May 18895. Witnessed European colonialism of the time6. Contracted dysentery and fevers during trip7. Left Africa in December 1890 and returned to Englandby January 18918. Experiences were used for Heart of Darkness, which was first published in 1899

European nations occupied Africa and divided territories among themselves between 1870 and 1900. This was done mostly to grab valuable resources from the continent such as ivory and rubber. Heart of Darkness uses the Congo Free State as its setting, which was ruled by King Leopold II of Belgium from 1885 to 1908.

"She talked about 'weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways,' till, upon my word, she made me quite uncomfortable. I ventured to hint that the Company was run for profit."

In the story, the narrator Marlow said he would point toplaces on maps and want to go there as a child, so hebecame a sailor. This is based on Conrad's own love ofgeography and desire to see the world, especially thecontinent of Africa.

Marlow's aunt believes that the Europeans aregoing to Africa to teach the natives how to becivilized, but like the real life circumstances thatinspired Conrad to write the book, Marlow reasonsthat Europeans are only in Africa to take resourcesfor the economic power.

"Six black men advanced in a pile, toiling up the path...all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking."

In his time in Africa, Conrad witnessed the natives suffer at the hands of the Belgians.While Leopold II ruled, Africans were forced to work and get resources like ivory forthe Belgians. The Africans would be starved and have terrible living conditions. Also, ifcollection quotas were not met, not only would villages be looted and burned, buthostages would also be taken and then executed. Then, severed hands would be takenfrom the dead natives and then strung up as trophies. The conditions that Conrad describes in the story almost seem tame compared to the real history.

Heart of Darkness1899

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Heart of Darkness speaks of the duality of human nature as one of its themes. People, no matter how good or civilized, are capable of committing great evil against others. No character defines this in the story more than Mr. Kurtz. Many traders hold a fascination with him, as he brings in more ivory than everyone else combined, which should make him the pride of the trading company. At various points in the story, Marlow learns that Kurtz recites poetry and is a great musician, as well as being a wonderful speaker. In a report he was writing to send back to Europe, he originally held the belief that the Europeans could lead the African natives to be civilized under their leadership. However, the man also committed great atrocities while in the African wilderness. He obtains his ivory by raiding the countryside and forcibly taking it from natives, and he has the heads of supposed "rebels" on stakes surrounding his station. He came to see himself as an overlord of sorts, and the area surrounding the station and all its belongings were his. He also grew to despise the natives, as he had scribbled at the end of his report on the African people that the Europeans should "exterminate all the brutes." Kurtz had a great number of positive qualities but, when left to his own devices, came to be more savage than the African natives that were regarded as brutes by the Europeans. Joseph Conrad used Kurtz as the ultimate example of the two-sided nature of humans and how even the best of people are capable of terrible deeds.

"...when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would point my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up I will go there.'"


  • blksafari 6 years ago

    blksafari's avatar

    Nice Glog. Heart of Darkness seems like a very interesting book. Reading the glog allow you a quick understanding of what the book was about. Pictures are clear and vivid in color.