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Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness
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Heart of Darkness Themes
Little Words, Big Ideas
Good vs. Evil
Much of Heart of Darkness is concerned with Marlow’s struggle to maintain his sense of morality as power conspiracies rage all around him and the mysterious figure of Kurtz piques his curiosi...
Man and the Natural World
Nature and civilization rather decisively represent the dichotomy of "primitive" non-Europeans and "cultured" Europeans. "Civilization" comes to refer to the supposed enlightenment and refinement o...
The divide of the races into black and white adds complexity to Conrad’s theme of light versus darkness and good versus evil. The conventional use of white as good and black as evil is clearl...
Perhaps one of the most terrifying aspects of Heart of Darkness is the dehumanization of its characters. Conrad shows this by sucking the humanity out of his villains – the manager, the accou...
Many of Marlow’s crew have ambitions of moving up the corporate ladder of the Company. Insatiable greed for wealth and power defines their characters. This greed quickly demolishes any sense...
Women and Femininity
Marlow has a very specific and sexist attitude towards women. They play only minor roles in the novel and often live vicariously through their male counterparts. They are rarely given voices of the...
Curiosity is Marlow’s defining characteristic. It is his desire to explore and fill in the empty spaces on maps that first brings him into the interior. Then, his interest is piqued by multip...
The question of how and why one goes mad in the interior pervades the novel. Conrad suggests that the white man’s fear of Africa’s unexplored heart, her ‘savage’ people, and...
Language and Communication
The articulateness and effectiveness of speech plays a large role in the novel. Good articulation and expression ensures understanding between two individuals. However, many of the characters suffe...
The white pilgrims go into the interior in constant fear of their surroundings. Their trepidation is so strong that they develop a paranoia of the wilderness – its eerie silences and sudden b...
Fate and Free Will
Marlow’s journey towards the interior and towards Kurtz seems inevitable, as if Marlow is drawn nearer and nearer to the heart of darkness by his own morbid curiosity and by his childhood dri...
Conrad plays with readers’ sense of time to emphasize certain points in the plot. Marlow tells his story aboard the Nellie so readers go with him (as well as his listeners) into the past. Sim...
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