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Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness


by Joseph Conrad

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Voyage and Return

"Fall" into the Other World

Road Trip!

Marlow embarks on his journey aboard the steamboat and travels up the Congo River. For this stuffy old white guy, navigating the Congo feels like "traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world." It's totally alien: unfamiliar, timeless, and full of drum-pounding Africans.

Sounds like a "fall into another world" to us.

Initial Fascination

Luv U, Kurtz

Marlow is a little freaked out by all the native Africans and cannibals surrounding him, but he's also pretty fascinated by all these people who don't live by European customs. That includes Kurtz, who Marlow just can't wait to meet.

Frustration Stage

So Long, Nice to Know You

The frustration stage begins when Marlow's ship gets stuck in a thick white fog deep in the interior. You know, since their journey is frustrated. When one of their crew (the black helmsman) is killed by attacking "savages," frustration quickly becomes the …

Nightmare Stage

Head on a Stick

Well, first, things actually look up for a while. Marlow meets the harlequin, a strange but harmless disciple of Kurtz, and learns more and more about the mystery man. But it quickly gets weird. Kurtz is practically a god to the native Africans: he kills them if they disobey and orders the attack on Marlow's steamboat. Plus, he doesn't even want to go back to Europe. (Whaaaa?) He's also super sick and possibly (okay, almost certainly) crazy.

And did we mention that the Africans really don't want him to leave?

Thrilling Escape and Return

Um, Not Everybody Escapes

Finally, Marlow manages to get Kurtz onboard his ship and escape by scaring the agitated Africans with his steam-whistle. Escape from Africa! Oh, but then Kurtz dies, leaving Marlow to deal with his letters and papers.

When Marlow gets back to Belgium, he finds that Europe isn't as great as he remembered it. Incidentally, Kurtz is also not as great as his fiancée (the Intended) remembers. We feel like those two sentences must be related somehow.

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