Essay on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899)


What is Conrad’s purpose in this novel?


How is the story of Marlow’s journey upriver into Africa’s interior not simply an expose of the horrors of European colonialism but also a dissection of the racist mentality? How is racism liberated? What are its consequences not only on the victim but on the perpetrator as well?

Your essay is due on due Thursday, April 12th at 3:30 p.m

Some ideas to think about:


How does Heart of Darkness reflect the zeitgeist of late nineteenth century intellectual thought?

-    What vision of human nature and progress is presented?

-    How did Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud each influence Conrad?

-    How does Conrad predict what is coming in the twentieth century with uncanny accuracy?


Note the novel’s interesting frame:

-    Marlow is not the narrator. Instead the story is seen from the point of view of another listener, someone much like you. Conrad’s hopes that the moral of Marlow’s story will get through to you. Did Marlow get it?


Organize your essay by following  Marlow’s journey upstream:


In the action of the novel, Marlow journeys through the circles of hell, ever closer to the true source of human evil. As he travels up stream, Marlow gradually transforms into his evil double, Kurtz! How do the people he meets and the sights he sees along the way help transform him into Kurtz? Remember that Kurtz came to Africa not simply to make a profit but also to help people. Why did his mission go so horribly awry?


What saves Marlow from Kurtz’s fate?


The stages of his journey:


1.        The Home Office

2.        The Outer Station and the Accountant in White

3.        The 200 Mile Trek

4.        The Middle Station and the General Manager

5.        The River Journey with the pilgrims and the cannibals

6.        The Inner Station and Kurtz

7.        Marlow’s Illness and Return

8.        Marlow’s Lie to the Kurtz’s Fiancée