Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary

Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad that tells the story of Charles Marlow, a sailor who is assigned as a steamer captain for a Belgian company in the African interior. The novel explores the themes of imperialism, power dynamics, morality, and the darkness potentially inherent in all human hearts.

Through his journey down the Congo River, Marlow develops an intense interest in investigating Kurtz, an ivory-procurement agent, and is shocked upon seeing what the European traders have done to the natives.

The novella is widely regarded as a critique of European colonial rule in Africa, examining the horrors of Western colonialism and depicting it as a phenomenon that tarnishes not only the lands and peoples it exploits but also those in the West who advance it. Central to Conrad’s work is the idea that there is little difference between “civilised people” and “savages,” implicitly commenting on imperialism and racism.

Major themes in Heart of Darkness include the hypocrisy of imperialism, madness as a result of imperialism, the absurdity of evil, and futility. Conrad intentionally made the novella hard to read, using language that makes the reader feel like they are fighting through the jungle, just like Marlow fought through the jungle in search of Kurtz.

Useful takeaways from Heart of Darkness include an understanding of the horrors of colonialism and the need to examine power dynamics and morality in our own lives. The novella also highlights the dangers of imperialism and the potential for madness and evil that can arise from it.

What I Liked

There’s a reason why it’s a classic. Haunting book.

What I Did Not Like

It has all the language quirks of an old novel.

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