Study Guide

Heart of Darkness Tough-o-Meter

By Joseph Conrad

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Snow Line (7)

Sorry, guys. This one's a toughie. Not only are the plot, themes, and motivation a little obscure (maybe even dark), but the language isn't exactly easy, either. Check out this set of sentences from the beginning of the novel:

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. (1.4-6)

Translation: the river continued to flow, but it looked different after the sun went down.

All right, come back. Before you give up, consider this: English was Conrad's third language, and he couldn't even speak it well until he was in his twenties. (Polish and French are numbers one and two.) If he could churn out prose like this in his third language, surely you can read it in your first or second. Right?

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