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Heart of Darkness: (Classics Deluxe Edition)

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Hear of Darkness

The book to me was okay. I mean if you like a book that sounds like a poem all the way threw it then it's probably going to be a book for you. Other than that the book was good. I like the story of a man who is trying to get a job but ends up fighting for his life. When...
The book to me was okay. I mean if you like a book that sounds like a poem all the way threw it then it's probably going to be a book for you. Other than that the book was good. I like the story of a man who is trying to get a job but ends up fighting for his life. When I first read the title Heart Of Darkness I thought it was going to be about something totally different. But see surprise can be a good thing and in this case it was.

but one thing about the book i liked was that i couldn't really connect with the book. because alot of books i read i can. so maybe it was the fact that i chose a book i dont' usually read to read instead.

posted by zebrakowz on January 7, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

Didn't grab my heart

I'm somewhat torn. The English Major in me would really like to give this book a higher rating. The reader in me has a hard time doing so.

I thought that approaching it a second time as a seasoned English Major would result in a better perspective. Admittedly, I thi...
I'm somewhat torn. The English Major in me would really like to give this book a higher rating. The reader in me has a hard time doing so.

I thought that approaching it a second time as a seasoned English Major would result in a better perspective. Admittedly, I think I got more out of the plot this time and see much more depth and symbolism in the book...but I still found myself struggling to stay awake at times.

What's sad is that this is not necessarily a slow paced or boring book. It's filled with exploration, political intrigue, violent deaths, savage attacks and other moments of suspense and tension. And yet, it is also filled with lengthy monologues on the nature of man and the perspectives of our narrator Marlow (who is actually a secondary narrator if you want to get technical, since he's telling the story to an unnamed narrator who appears very little in the book at all...a very strange setup).

The craft or structure of this novel is intriguing and I suspect is a large reason why this is such a classic. As I mentioned briefly above, the narrative style is a little different. The "official" narrator of the book is an unnamed man sitting on a boat. However, the meat of the story is actually told by another man on the boat (Marlow) who is actually telling this story to our unnamed narrator. There are also segments where Marlow is re-telling something someone else said to him or something he read, thus leaving us three or four times removed from the actual events of the story. His spoken narrative is also sometimes a little disjointed and sometimes conversational as though he's lost his train of thought while telling the story or he's distracted or interrupted by something or someone on the ship with our actual narrator.

The book is full of symbolism and allusion. It can definitely be taken as a commentary on many different aspects of Africa, colonialism, Imperialism, savagery, humanity, principles, beliefs, truths, and many other high level themes. However, the book doesn't seem to come up with any concrete answers about any of these and even leaves us in the darkness as to exactly which commentary we should be paying attention to. Truly, many social commentaries leave off just short of prescribing a plan of action, but they generally make their arguments fairly clear. In the case of Heart of Darkness, I feel like I came away more muddled than when I began. Yes, I acknowledge that oppression of so-called savages is not to be condoned, but I knew that ahead of time...and honestly, I'm not entirely sure that oppression is the core meaning of the novel.

I appreciate that this novel has depth to it that I don't understand. It's definitely a difficult novel that's hard to truly access. It's high level plot and themes are intriguing, but I don't feel that they stand well enough on their own to warrant an outrageous following. In order to truly appreciate this book, I feel that it requires very in-depth study and discussion of weeks or months. Maybe I'm just looking for too much, and if that's the case, then my view of the book goes down even more. Maybe I'm just obtuse and missing the point, which means my review is unfortunately lower than it should be.

Whatever the reason, I don't love this novel and don't anticipate reading it again. If somebody else reads it and loves it and wants to discuss it with me and turn me around, I'd gladly open a discussion, but for now, I stick by my rating.

posted by theokester on June 15, 2009

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Didn't grab my heart

    I'm somewhat torn. The English Major in me would really like to give this book a higher rating. The reader in me has a hard time doing so.

    I thought that approaching it a second time as a seasoned English Major would result in a better perspective. Admittedly, I think I got more out of the plot this time and see much more depth and symbolism in the book...but I still found myself struggling to stay awake at times.

    What's sad is that this is not necessarily a slow paced or boring book. It's filled with exploration, political intrigue, violent deaths, savage attacks and other moments of suspense and tension. And yet, it is also filled with lengthy monologues on the nature of man and the perspectives of our narrator Marlow (who is actually a secondary narrator if you want to get technical, since he's telling the story to an unnamed narrator who appears very little in the book at all...a very strange setup).

    The craft or structure of this novel is intriguing and I suspect is a large reason why this is such a classic. As I mentioned briefly above, the narrative style is a little different. The "official" narrator of the book is an unnamed man sitting on a boat. However, the meat of the story is actually told by another man on the boat (Marlow) who is actually telling this story to our unnamed narrator. There are also segments where Marlow is re-telling something someone else said to him or something he read, thus leaving us three or four times removed from the actual events of the story. His spoken narrative is also sometimes a little disjointed and sometimes conversational as though he's lost his train of thought while telling the story or he's distracted or interrupted by something or someone on the ship with our actual narrator.

    The book is full of symbolism and allusion. It can definitely be taken as a commentary on many different aspects of Africa, colonialism, Imperialism, savagery, humanity, principles, beliefs, truths, and many other high level themes. However, the book doesn't seem to come up with any concrete answers about any of these and even leaves us in the darkness as to exactly which commentary we should be paying attention to. Truly, many social commentaries leave off just short of prescribing a plan of action, but they generally make their arguments fairly clear. In the case of Heart of Darkness, I feel like I came away more muddled than when I began. Yes, I acknowledge that oppression of so-called savages is not to be condoned, but I knew that ahead of time...and honestly, I'm not entirely sure that oppression is the core meaning of the novel.

    I appreciate that this novel has depth to it that I don't understand. It's definitely a difficult novel that's hard to truly access. It's high level plot and themes are intriguing, but I don't feel that they stand well enough on their own to warrant an outrageous following. In order to truly appreciate this book, I feel that it requires very in-depth study and discussion of weeks or months. Maybe I'm just looking for too much, and if that's the case, then my view of the book goes down even more. Maybe I'm just obtuse and missing the point, which means my review is unfortunately lower than it should be.

    Whatever the reason, I don't love this novel and don't anticipate reading it again. If somebody else reads it and loves it and wants to discuss it with me and turn me around, I'd gladly open a discussion, but for now, I stick by my rating.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2007

    heart of darkness? more like heart of boredom...

    After reading the first chapter of Heart of Darkness, I was left half-asleep, bored, and confused. I had predicted that I would grow to love the book and that Conrad¿s intense way of putting things would help me become a more analytical reader, but honestly as I continued to read the book, the more uninterested and baffled I became. The book followed a story set in Africa, on a river labeled the Congo. The story is recollected by a sea captain named Marlow, who told the story while on a ship in the Thames River. Marlow went to Africa to take command of a ship that was responsible for transporting ivory. He discovered some insane stuff in Africa stuff that changed his life. He befriended cannibals, obsessed over a man, had his ship sunk by his own boss, watched a newfound friend get stabbed through the chest then killed, and he even went a little crazy. Sounds like fun right? Wrong. Like I stated earlier, the story is dull and hard to read. The novel is also filled with much futility, and I think that¿s one of the main reasons that I loathed it so terribly much. For example, Marlow obsessed over meeting Kurtz, an agent for the company who collected more ivory than all the others combined. Marlow¿s consumed with desire to meet Kurtz, because he is convinced that they are alike. Not only does he find out that Kurtz is horrible, but Kurtz died almost right after we met him. Another thing that happened in vain, was them blowing up a hill for absolutely no reason. It was basically just busy work to keep the slaves active. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and everybody has different ideas on what is pointless and what isn¿t. When it comes to my opinion on the book, straight up I will tell you that I hate it and it¿s horrible and I wish this torture upon no one. But hey, somebody out there might actually enjoy the story so the best way to find out if it¿s the right book for you or not, would be to pick up the narrative and ignore my views on it and form your own opinion. Have fun!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    Not so enjoyable.

    Heart of Darkness was clearly written by a secretive man who couldn't get his ducks in a row. Through his writing, he displays confusing-to-grasp information that even has confusing information behind its own confusing meaning. What I mean is this: Personally, I like facts set in front of me on a silver platter. They are well seen, well spoken, well thought of, and I can take it and move on. When Joseph Conrad wrote this novel, he set it up as a mystery for readers and critics alike, so that only he himself would hold the secret behind every word. This, to me, is not the way a novel should be written, but instead a diary. While reading this book, I caught myself drifting off countless numbers of times, unsure of where we were and what was going on. I had a clear view of the scenery in my head, but I just couldn't get the characters there with it. I just couldn't believe that something like this could actually happen somewhere, I refused to. I enjoy books that grasp my attention and hold it, and though Joseph Conrad was stupendous at setting the scene and having a vast vocabulary, I just feel that this was not set out for me. Honestly, I would not recommend this book to anyone who is in the same boat as me. If you prefer enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon in your lazy boy, reading a book and sipping tea, this book is not for you. However, if you are interested in critical thinking through every paragraph and spending hours at a time trying deciphering was being said... enjoy.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A classic...unfortunately

    I have yet to meet anyone who enjoyed reading Heart of Darkness. Perhaps that's the natural result of its being required reading for most high school students, but while I'm sure that has something to do with it, I'm inclined to think it's really just not a very enjoyable book.

    There's so much build up, so much traveling into the heart of the Congo, that by the time I got to the climax of the book, I was almost asleep with boredom. I probably would've been entirely asleep if I hadn't been busy reading into the so-called symbolism flooding the novel. (Flies aren't just flies! No. They must be symbolic of gadflies, whose job it is to sting man's conscience with reports of injustice.)

    The whole book is such a heavy handed allegory for the darkness of the human heart that even the book's inclusion of one of my favorite themes---human nature in the absence of civilization---couldn't make me enjoy the read. In fact, the only reason I'm glad I read it is so I could laugh at all the Heart of Darkness allusions in the movie Apocalypse Now. This is certainly a classic, but anyone forced to read it has my sympathy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    Not for High School Students

    Oh, how I wished I would have liked this book! I just wanted to understand, but that did not happen by my reading the dark novella, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. This piece of literature by Conrad deserves to be taken up only if someone is prepared to read through all of the fog and try to find all the hidden messages that lie deep within the lines. I believe that 7 out 10 of those people will be unsuccessful in trying to do so. This book is not something any sophomore in high school should read (besides Christian Hall), and I know that for a fact.
    To begin with, Conrad's diction in the book is very hard to comprehend, for it was written in 1902 when the English language was a little different than it is now. For example, "...Nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of native--he called them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere" (Conrad 11). My class was basically spoon fed through the first part of the book by our teacher, and I feel that if that wasn't the case that I would have probably never understood this book at all. We had to go paragraph-by-paragraph and someone in our class had to read or analyze the paragraph that we were on. It was a time-consuming process.
    Furthermore, I am in a Pre-IB class, and therefore my teacher likes to find books that are filled to the brim with hidden messages and deep, philosophical meanings. She hit the jack pot with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It's impossible to just read the book for what it is, for if this is done then someone will find themselves utterly lost. There are so many hidden messages that it almost gets confusing and makes it a tough read.
    On another note, I personally found the book dreadfully boring. I would hate seeing that our homework was to read the next ten pages of the book, for those ten pages could take up to 40 minutes to read. The reason it would take so long is because I could not stay focused on the book. I would find myself reading it, and that's it. I did not comprehending anything that was going on in the book, so I usually had to reread it. The reason I lost focus so easily is because Marlow goes on these never-ending rampages about absolutely nothing. It took the focus away from the main story line and off into Marlow's complex head, which just made the story confusing. Another reason the book was hard to read was the use of dialogue. The story is being told by Marlow, so everything is in quotation marks and if someone else is talking, it's even more quotation marks, which made it increasingly confusing.
    In conclusion, I highly recommend that no one should read this book. It will be a waste of time, and it will be the worst 80 pages you have ever read in your time on this vast earth. It will only leave you confused and frustrated, so please stay away from it. Unless you enjoy boring books, then go for it my bland friend!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    Are You Kidding Me?

    Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is in no way even remotely good. African people are beaten, elephants are killed for money, and people are evil. It was just a bunch of senseless details written down to consume a month of your life to read and understand, yet it is less than 100 pages. One of my classmates made a very good point while going through this, "It's like reading Mary Shelley all over again!" For those that don't know who this woman is, she wrote Frankenstein, and was absolutely in love with plants. Pages would go on with no end in sight, just describing the scenery.
    This novella starts out by describing a river. I mean, come on, a river? Is there nothing else that he could have chosen to write about? I speak for everyone when I say that no one cares about the history of this river! We then go to Marlow, the main character, telling his story. But of course, it would be too simple to just have his story in there. So Conrad decided to add a narrator, to write down his words, and occasionally comment himself. Third person limited point of view is a great thing, I suggest using it.
    Marlow's journey begins by going to the company to officially start his job. This novel is full to the brim of symbolism. Even two women sitting have a hidden meaning. He signs some papers, and is off. He reaches the central station, where he meets the manager. The manager goes on and on about how great a man named Kurtz is. We don't even meet Kurtz until the middle of part three. Up until that point, he's just a voice and reputation. We find out that the manager actually wants Kurtz dead, as to take his job. Sounds like the modern world to me. Marlow travels for a while, after finally getting the rivets he needed to fix his sunken steamboat. On the way to pick up Kurtz, his head is filled with lots of dark, depressing thoughts. Everything wrong in the world is made aware to him.
    He comes into the path of natives, and they attack his boat with spears and arrows, killing one of the men. Marlow has lots of respect for the cannibals. Then we come across the freakish Russian that looks like a clown or a hobo. Both are a bit creepy in my opinion. The guy practically worships Kurtz, like he can do no wrong. Of course while he says that he loves him, there's a bunch of stakes with human heads on the top, all done my Kurtz. Now if that's not civil, then I don't know what is.
    Finally we meet Kurtz. He isn't very impressive at all, just a sick old man that lives in the delusion that he's fine and can still do anything. Marlow has to convince him to come back to Europe, and succeeds. They leave, and Kurtz dies. His last words were "The horror! The horror!"(Conrad 154). A year later, Marlow feels that he must go to see Kurtz's fiancé. She has no idea of any of the dark things that go on, and Marlow tells her that Kurtz's last words were her name. Of course, women don't deserve to know the truth. Sexist pigs.
    After that, we hear about the river again, which is exactly what I wanted to hear more about. An extremely lame finish if you ask me. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely not. It's incredibly hard to understand, and super boring. I'd rather burn it than read it again.

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  • Posted March 31, 2010

    The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    Joseph Conrad's 1902 expose of humankind in Heart of Darkness is thought-provoking. It provides readers with his interpretation of British imperialism as well as his view on society's susceptibility to corruption. This book has some positive aspects such as its deep symbolism and abundance of themes. However, it lacks thrilling events and the style of this text is horrid.
    He introduces the novella on The Thames and quickly begins to recap his adventures as a steamboat captain in Africa and through the Congo River. He is sent there to retrieve Mr. Kurtz, the most effective ivory collector, due to his severe illness and the company's desire to have him removed from his station. Marlow progresses down the river, enters the outskirts of Africa, and finally treks into the core of Africa via the Congo River. After an emotional and physical battle with Mr. Kurtz, he eventually returns to Europe.
    Kurtz keeps Marlow thinking, reevaluating himself, and challenging his morals. Marlow's struggle to define his moral compass reveals many of the strong themes. He clearly fights battles of racial injustice and restraint in uncontrolled environments. In Africa, the natives are treated at a subhuman level. In the beginning, Marlow even refers to them as, "Black shapes" (Conrad 83). However, as the novella progresses and Marlow sees Kurtz's treatment of the natives, he reveals to the reader his change of heart. He begins to respect the natives as hardworking people and accepts their culture. Africa is an uncontrolled country. Since there is pure anarchy in all aspects of life, the characters experience difficulty in maintaining their sanity and upholding their moral values. For example, as Marlow and his crew trek down the Congo, he notes how astounded he is by the cannibals' ability to resist succumbing to their desire to eat human flesh. He states his astonishment in saying, "Fine fellows- cannibals.and, after all, they did not eat each other" (Conrad 107). This display of self-control reminds Marlow that he must also maintain his moral standards even though he is in an unrestrained environment.
    Marlow is able to resist the temptations of savagery, but Conrad is unable to resist piling symbolism into this novel. Understanding symbolism is a key element to enriching the readers overall concept of this story. Symbols are lurking in every paragraph of Heart of Darkness. The color of the river, lack of women, and the absence of character names all have a deeper meaning, so consider each word carefully.
    However, reading meticulously, you will soon realize this book is dull. It seriously lacks page-turning events. The back of the book's description is incredibly deceiving when it describes trip in a mysterious and exhilarating manner. Only three major events occur in 99 pages: Marlow obtains the job of captain, Marlow travels to Africa, and Marlow finds Kurtz. The bulk of the 99 pages are absorbed by countless details describing lackluster sequelae of these events.
    It is, in fact, this long-winded writing style that bores readers. Due to the extensive use of adjectives, the reader will consistently be able to imagine the exact environment Marlow is in. However, that environment is usually commonplace and consequently fails to hold the reader's attention. Also, the overly detailed descriptions leave little to the imagination of the reader. The author could add an element of mystery by allowing the reader to form their own picture of Marlow's se

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