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After completing this lesson, students will be
The background of The Heart of Darkness .
What is a frame story?
What is modernism in Literature?
The essence of Darkness in novella.
Themes of novella.
Know about colonalization and imperializm.
Africa was also known as ‘dark continent’.
1880 - 1900 : Partition and Scramble for
People of Africa was uncivilized and
European wants to make them civilized.
But there was hypocrisy in it.
In this novella narrator show the dark side of
Heart of Darkness originally appeared serially
in Blackwood's Magazine in 1899.
It was eventually published as a whole in 1902,
as the third work in a volume
Conrad titled Youth.
Since its publication in Youth, the novel has
fascinated numerous readers and critics, almost
all of whom regarded the novel as an important
one because of the ways it uses ambiguity and
(in Conrad's own words), "foggishness" to
dramatize Marlow's perceptions of the horrors
Born Josef Teodore
Nalecz Korzeniowski, in
Podolia, Ukraine, 3
Conrad’s father and
Apollo and Ewa, were
activists. They were
imprisoned 7 months
and eventually deported
Joseph Conrad was
He was multilingual
English was his first
Most important thing in
this novella is that the
main character of the
novella is very familiar
Full Title: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Type of Work: Novella (between a novel
and a short story in length and scope)
Genre: Symbolism, colonial literature,
adventure tale, frame story.
Time and Place Written: England, 1898–
1899; inspired by Conrad’s journey to the
Congo in 1890
Setting (time): Latter part of the nineteenth
century, probably sometime between 1876 and
Setting (place): Opens on the Thames River
outside London, where Marlow is telling the story
that makes up Heart of Darkness. Events of the
story take place in Brussels, at the Company’s
offices, and in the Congo, then a Belgian territory.
Protagonist: Charlie Marlow
Type of Work: Novella
What is Novella?
A novella is a work of written, fictional,
narrative prose normally longer than a short
story but shorter than a novel.
The novella is a common literary genre in
several European languages.
Heart of Darkness is a frame story (a story within a story). The
first narrator sets the scene, describes the boat and the
Thames, and introduces Marlow, the primary narrator.
The structure mimics the oral tradition of storytelling:
Readers settle down with the sailors on the boat to listen to
› Oral storytelling brings with it associations of fables,
legends, and epic journeys. Readers are introduced to the
idea that the tale Marlow tells is a quest, a myth.
› The story within a story technique also distances Conrad
as the author. Readers are unsure whether they are reading
the tale at second- or third-hand. It becomes difficult to
distinguish whether the opinions expressed are Conrad's
own or the narrator's.
Heart of Darkness was published in the Late Victorian-Early
Modernism is an attempt to use language in a new way
› to reconstruct the world of art as much as the philosophers and
scientists had redefined the world of their own disciplines.
Played with shifting and contradictory appearances to suggest the
shifting and uncertain nature of reality.
blended fantasy with reality while representing real historical or
raised age-old questions of human identity in terms of
contemporary philosophy and psychology.
Note the following patterns in your books:
Three times Marlow breaks the story
Three stations (Central Station, Shack, Inner
Three women (Aunt, Mistress, Intended)
Three central characters (Kurtz, Marlow,
Three characters with names
Three views of Africa (political, religious,
The title can be understood both literally and symbolically.
Literally, the continent is dark and foreboding, with an
unexplored heart (the Congo) in its depths.
Symbolically, the "heart of darkness," is the journey of
Marlow and his companions. Their travels can be
understood as a journey into the exploration of the
darkness of the men's souls (sin) , reflected back to them
by the "dark continent" which they explore. Their journey
out of the Congo can be interpreted as a parallel to man's
redemption from sin, or as the dualism of man.
What you think what darkness is?
Give your analytical view on theme?
Light versus dark (inversions)
Man’s inhumanity to man (injustices)
Hypocrisy of imperialism (“whited
Unrestrained lusts (versus “restraint”)
Savage (“the other”) vs. civilized
Internal heart of darkness (interior
Madness (rational versus irrational)
Absurdity of evil
Isolation / Alienation
The protagonist of Heart of Darkness, Marlow is
philosophical, independent-minded, and generally
skeptical of those around him. He is also a master
storyteller, eloquent and able to draw his listeners into
his tale. Although Marlow shares many of his fellow
Europeans’ prejudices, he has seen enough of the
world and has encountered enough debased white men
to make him skeptical of imperialism.
Conrad voyaged to the Congo in 1890, when he sailed
a steamboat up the Congo River just as Marlow does in
Numerous biographical facts find their way into the
novel. For example, like Marlow, Conrad had always
longed to "follow the sea," the wife of a distant relative
(like Marlow's aunt) helped him secure a job with a
trading company, the captain who preceded him had
been killed by natives in a quarrel (like Fresleven in the
novel), and Conrad encountered several men who
showed barbaric tendencies similar to the ones
exhibited by Kurtz.
"At that time there were many blank spaces on the
earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly
inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my
finger on it and say, "When I grow up I will go there. . .
True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. I
had got filled in since my boyhood with rivers and lakes
and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of
delightful mystery -- a white patch for a boy to dream
gloriously over. It had become a place of
darkness“ (Conrad 5).
The chief of the Inner Station and the object of Marlow’s
quest. Kurtz is a man who understands the power of
words, and his writings are marked by an eloquence
that obscures their horrifying message. Although he
remains an enigma even to Marlow, Kurtz clearly exerts
a powerful influence on the people in his life.
In 1890, Joseph Conrad secured employment in the Congo as
the captain of a river steamboat; this was also the
approximate year in which the main action of Heart of
Darkness takes place. Illness forced Conrad's return home
after only six months in Africa, but that was long enough for
intense impressions to have been formed in the novelist's
mind. Today, the river at the center of Heart of Darkness is
called Zaire, and the country is the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, but at the time Conrad wrote of them the country
was the Belgian Congo and the river the Congo.
The river plays an important role in ‘The Heart of Darkness’.
The Congo river is the means by which the Europeans enter
the region and use for transportation.
The river symbolize the invisible thread that connected our
good side with our bad side.
The slow and difficult journey suggest that the journey into
oneself is both a slow and difficult one.
King Leopold II wants to use Congo for his own benefits but
he showed hypocrisy to others.
Leopold II described his motives to the rest of Europe as
springing from a desire to end slavery in the Congo and
civilize the natives, but his actual desires were for material
Leopold II, who was to be sole ruler of this land, never set
foot in the Congo Free State. Instead, he formed a company,
called simply “the Company” in Heart of Darkness, that ran
the country for him.
In 1892, Leopold II declared
all natural resources in the
Congo Free State to be his
property. This meant the
Belgians could stop dealing
with African traders and
simply take what they
wanted themselves. As a
traders pushed deeper into
Africa in search of new
sources of ivory, setting up
stations all along the Congo
The Belgian traders
acts of atrocity
against the African
the severing of
hands and heads.
Marlow sits at the Thames River in the evening with
several other people and begins telling the story about
how he entered the dark continent out of nowhere. No
one wants to listen but he continues anyway.
Marlow expressed a desire to go to Africa and his Aunt
got him a position as a captain of a steamboat of an
ivory company. The previous captain Freslaven died in
a scuffle with the natives and Marlow took his place.
A few days later, Marlow travels to Africa and gets to the
first station where he meets the accountant who keeps
track of the funds in Kurtz’s company.
Marlow continues down the river on his steamboat with
a crew of several whites and about 20 to 30 blacks.
As he travels down the river, Marlow comes
across this shack where he picks up wood, and
a note cautioning him to travel carefully.
He continues down the river and becomes surrounded
by savages in the fog.
Marlow is attacked by the savages.
Only Marlow’s helmsman died.
Marlow shortly reaches the inner station where he is
greeted by the Russian who has been nursing Kurtz
through a grave illness; it was he who left the pile of
wood and the message.
Kurtz is very ill and needs to be taken back to England,
but he does not want to go. In fact, he is the one who
ordered the attack on the steamboat.
Kurtz is worshipped by the natives and completely
exploits them. Kurtz tries to escape to the natives but
Marlow catches him and takes him back to the
steamboat heading back for England. While still on the
river, Kurtz said, “The horror, the horror,” then died.
Marlow returns to England. He visits Kurtz’s intended
who is still in mourning a year after Kurtz’s death. She
still remembers Kurtz as the great man he was before
he left. Marlow didn’t tell her what he had become
before he died. When she pleads that Marlow repeat
Kurtz’s last words to her, he can’t bear to shatter her
illusions: “The last word he pronounced was--your
name,” he lies.
Apocalypse Now is a film that
was directed by Francis Ford
Coppola starring Martin
Sheen, Robert Duvall and
This film was based on
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Coppola takes the story to
Vietnam. Captain Willard
(Marlow) is sent on a mission
to kill Colonel Kurtz who has