An Analysis of "Heart of Darkness"

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An Analysis of "Heart of Darkness"

Joseph Conrad, in his long-short story, "Heart of Darkness," tells the tale of two mens' realization of the hidden, dark, evil side of themselves. Marlow, the "second" narrator of the framed narrative, embarked upon a spiritual adventure on which he witnessed firsthand the wicked potential in everyone. On his journey into the dark, forbidden Congo, the "heart of darkness," so to speak, Marlow encountered Kurtz, a "remarkable man" and "universal genius," who had made himself a god in the eyes of the natives over whom he had an imperceptible power. These two men were, in a sense, images of each other: Marlow was what Kurtz may have been, and Kurtz was what Marlow may have become. Like a jewel, "Heart of Darkness" has many facets. From one view it is an exposure of Belgian methods in the Congo, which at least for a good part of the way sticks closely to Conrad's own experience. Typically, however, the adventure is related to a larger view of human affairs. Marlow told the story one evening on a yacht in the Thames estuary as darkness fell, reminding his audience that exploitation of one group by another was not new in history. They were anchored in the river, where ships went out to darkest Africa. Yet, as lately as Roman times, London's own river led, like the Congo, into a barbarous hinterland where the Romans went to make their profits. Soon darkness fell over London, while the ships that bore "civilization" to remote parts appeared out of the dark, carrying darkness with them, different only in kind to the darkness they encounter.

These thoughts and feelings were merely part of the tale, for Conrad had a more personal story to tell, about a single man who went so far from civilization that its restraints no longer mattered to him. Exposed to the unfamiliar emotional and physical demands of the African wilderness, free to do exactly as he chose, Kurtz plunged into horrible orgies of which human...
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