European Humanities
Spring 2019
Mr. Spragins
Heart of Darkness (1899)
by Joseph Conrad (Reading One) pp. 15-22; (pp. 1-6) (3-9)

Part One: Marlow, the Un-named Narrator, and Conrad’s Intricate Frame for Heart of Darkness

Who is telling this story? To whom? When? Where? Why? (15) (1) (3) (Be careful. The narrator is not Marlow!) Note the way that the narrator remembers the setting, Gravesend, where he heard Marlow tell his story. (Compare to the frame of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner".)

The conversation on board the Nellie turns to history: the historic voyages around the world which had set forth from this spot. (17) (2) (4) (Who were Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Franklin?) When the narrator thinks of the adventurers who helped create an empire, he is filled with pride. 

How does Marlow interpret this history differently? (3) (5-6)

What imperialist encounter occured on the Thames River two thousand years ago? What kind of civilization existed on the British isles before the Roman conquest? How did that Roman officer feel when he voyaged into the 'darkness' of England's interior for the first time?(19-20) (4) (6)

Marlow makes a distinction between the Roman imperialists and the imperialists of his own day. What 'idea' does Marlow believe may justify the imperial conquests that have accompanied the spread of Western Civilization? (20) (Would Rudyard Kipling agree?) (4) (7)

After this preamble, Marlow begins his tale:

What resolution did Marlow make when, as a boy, he first looked at a map of the great expanse of the African rainforest? (21-22) (5) (8)


Body Paragraph One: Conrad's Narrative Frame:

Why does Conrad choose such a curious and elaborate frame for his tale?