From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness


by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness Theme of Man and the Natural World

Move over, Mother Nature: there's a new wilderness in town. In Heart of Darkness, the natural world isn't a place of comfort or pleasure or even mild neutrality: it's dark, frightening, and it will basically eat your face off if you so much as look at it cross-eyed. But is civilization really that much better? Sure, you might get to sleep in a bed—but human nature is the same whether it's shouting "brava" after an operatic aria or chanting along with war drums.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What does civilization seem to represent at the beginning of the novel? What does nature represent? Does this distinction hold true as the novel progresses?
  2. How does the concept of civilization become problematic as the novel progresses? How are the Company's attempts to 'civilize' the Africans hypocritical?
  3. If nature is madness-inducing, what does this say about human nature, especially the native Africans?
  4. How do different aspects of nature, especially the river and the jungle, become characters in their own right? What is nature's attitude towards man?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In Heart of Darkness, natural forces have a will of their own: they're hostile to the white "pilgrims," but accepting toward the black "savages."

Conrad suggests that there's no real difference between the natural world and human nature.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...