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The Fourth Edition is again based on Robert Kimbrough’s meticulously re-edited text.
Missing words have been restored and the entire novel has been repunctuated in accordance with Conrad’s style. The result is the first published version of Heart of Darkness that allows readers to hear Marlow’s voice as Conrad heard it when he wrote the story. "Backgrounds and Contexts" provides readers with a generous collection of maps and photographs that bring the Belgian Congo to life. Textual materials, topically arranged, address nineteenth-century views of imperialism and racism and include autobiographical writings by Conrad on his life in the Congo. New to the Fourth Edition is an excerpt from Adam Hochschild’s recent book, King Leopold’s Ghost, as well as writings on race by Hegel, Darwin, and Galton. "Criticism" includes a wealth of new materials, including nine contemporary reviews and assessments of Conrad and Heart of Darkness and twelve recent essays by Chinua Achebe, Peter Brooks, Daphne Erdinast-Vulcan, Edward Said, and Paul B. Armstrong, among others. Also new to this edition is a section of writings on the connections between Heart of Darkness and the film Apocalypse Now by Louis K. Greiff, Margot Norris, and Lynda J. Dryden. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

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What People Are Saying

Joyce Carol Oates
One of the great, if troubling, visionary works of Western civilization.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393926361
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/13/2005
  • Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
  • Edition description: Fourth Edition
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 67,403
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul B. Armstrong is Dean of the College and Professor of English at Brown University. He is the author of Play and the Politics of Reading: The Social Uses of Modernist Form, Conflicting Readings: Variety and Validity in Interpretation, The Challenge of Bewilderment: Understanding and Representation in James, Conrad, and Ford and The Phenomenology of Henry James. He is the editor of the Norton Critical Edition of E.M. Forster’s Howards End.


Joseph Conrad (originally Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when he was a child, following their exile for anti-Russian activities, and he came under the protection of his tradition-conscious uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who watched over him for the next twenty-five years. In 1874 Bobrowski conceded to his nephew's passionate desire to go to sea, and Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice.

In 1886 he obtained British nationality and his Master's certificate in the British Merchant Service. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he married Jessie George and eventually settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes. He continued to write until his death in 1924. Today Conrad is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of fiction in English -- his third language. He once described himself as being concerned "with the ideal value of things, events and people" in the Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus he defined his task as "by the power of the written word ... before all, to make you see."

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jósef Teodor Konrad Walecz Korzeniowski (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 3, 1857
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      August 3, 1924
    2. Place of Death:
      Bishopsbourne, Kent, England

Read an Excerpt

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We four affectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.
Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns--and even convictions. The Lawyer--the best of old fellows&mdashhad, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug. The Accountant had brought out already a box of dominoes, and wastoying architecturally with the bones. Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol. The Director, satisfied the anchor had good hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board the yacht. For some reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun.

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, 'followed the sea' with reverence and affection, than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and untitled--the great knights-errant of the sea. It had borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashing in the night of time, from the Golden Hind returning with her round flanks full of treasure, to be visited by the Queen's Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic tale, to the Erebus and Terror, bound on other conquests--and that never returned. It had known the ships and the men. They had sailed from Deptford, from Greenwich, from Erith--the adventurers and the settlers; kings' ships and the ships of men on 'Change; captains, admirals, the dark 'interlopers' of the Eastern trade, and the commissioned 'generals' of East India fleets. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires.

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman lighthouse, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway&mdasha great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.

'And this also,' said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places of the earth.'

He was the only man of us who still 'followed the sea.' The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them--the ship; and so is their country--the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow--

'I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day . . . Light came out of this river since--you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine--what d'ye call 'em?--trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries--a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too--used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here--the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina&mdashand going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,--precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay--cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death--death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes--he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had done through his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by-and-by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga--perhaps too much dice, you know--coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him,--hall that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.'

He paused.

'Mind,' he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower--'Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency--the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force--nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind'as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to . . .'

He broke off. Flames glided in the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other--then separating slowly or hastily. The traffic of the great city went on in the deepening night upon the sleepless river. We looked on, waiting patiently--there was nothing else to do till the end of the flood; but it was only after a long silence, when he said, in a hesitating voice, 'I suppose you fellows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a bit,' that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow's inconclusive experiences.

'I don't want to bother you much with what happened to me personally,' he began, showing in this remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear; 'yet to understand the effect of it on me you ought to know how I got out there, what I saw, how I went up that river to the place where I first met the poor chap. It was the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience. It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me--and into my thoughts. It was sombre enough, too--and pitiful--not extraordinary in any way--not very clear either. No, not very clear. And yet it seemed to throw a kind of light.

'I had then, as you remember, just returned to London after a lot of Indian Ocean, Pacific, China Seas--a regular dose of the East--six years or so, and I was loafing about, hindering you fellows in your work and invading your homes, just as though I had got a heavenly mission to civilize you. It was very fine for a time, but after a bit I did get tired of resting. Then I began to look for a ship--I should think the hardest work on earth. But the ships wouldn't even look at me. And I got tired of that game, too.

'Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. 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. The North Pole was one of these places, I remember. Well, I haven't been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour's off. Other places were scattered about the Equator, and in every sort of latitude all over the two hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won't talk about that. But there was one yet--the biggest, the most blank, so to speak--that I had a hankering after.

'True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled 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. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird--a silly little bird. Then I remembered there was a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash it all! I thought to myself, they can't trade without using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water--steamboats! Why shouldn't I try to get charge of one? I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me.
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Table of Contents

About the Series
About This Volume
Introduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts 3
The Complete Text 17
A Critical History of Heart of Darkness 99
Reader-Response Criticism and Heart of Darkness 115
A Reader-Response Perspective: Heart of Darkness and the Politics of Displacement 131
Feminist and Gender Criticism and Heart of Darkness 148
A Feminist and Gender Perspective: "Too Beautiful Altogether": Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of Darkness 169
Deconstruction and Heart of Darkness 185
A Deconstructive Perspective: Heart of Darkness Revisited 206
The New Historicism and Heart of Darkness 221
A New Historicist Perspective: Preserving and Keeping Order by Killing Time in Heart of Darkness 239
Cultural Criticism and Heart of Darkness 258
A Cultural Perspective: Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism? 277
Glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms 299
About the Contributors 313
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 116 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 117 Customer Reviews
  • 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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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    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 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.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    Dream-Like and Brutal

    This is probably one of the best novels I have read, and its place in the English canon is well deserved. I don't agree with the Achebe line of criticism. Even setting aside the question of Conrad's personal beliefs, which don't necessarily accord with Achebe's assesment, I think it's hard to argue that the book is anything but negative on the European, colonialist outlook. It is true that you could read and celebrate the brutality and dehumanization of the Africans herein, but to do that you would have to overlook a lot of the text. Obviously not at all coincidentally, it would be similar to but more willfully ignorant than people taking Apocalypse Now as a pro-war movie. On that note, I strongly look forward to the movie or book that, much like Coppola did for Vietnam, presents an explicit adaptation of this book to American brutality, exploitation, and imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think this book should be taught in more high schools so that more people are exposed to its commentary on those kinds of affronts.

    1 out of 1 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2002

    The Horror! The Horror!

    A moral journey and an account of how lust for power overpowered one man's soul, heart of darkness is without a doubt one of the greatest stories ever written. Conrad has a command over words similar to Joyce, and some passages are so poetic they make you gasp. This is especially amazing considering English was his third language! Not only is it thought-provoking and meaningful as a parable, but it is also an absorbing read strictly as an adventure story. The most common complaint I've heard about this book is its wordiness. However, in my opinion no extraneous words are included, every one contributes to the nightmare-like atmosphere. If you want succinct writing that says nothing, give up and read Hemingway. If you can't understand this, you shouldn't be criticizing it. That said, this is a truly great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2000

    Good Storytelling

    I felt I was sitting across from Marlow, who is telling the story of his experience in the Congo. This novel is different from most in that it is written so that the reader is listening to someone's story related rather than the reader feeling s/he is there as the story happens. The style matches that of someone telling you his experience as you listen. This makes the style somewhat choppy and sometimes confusing as to who is speaking, the narrator or another character. Nonetheless, I found myself gripped by the tale. I read the book in one sitting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2014

    Saphira bioooooi

    Go to 'heart if darkness'(no typo) result four i think. Maybe result five. Add on to bio<p>Mate-Thorn<p>Dragonets-Obsidon

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012


    This wad okay
    Not as good as id hoped it would be, but you cant like them all

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2012

    :( :-P

    Dont like this book... have to write an essay on it...

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012



    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Not for the feignt of heart

    The reading feint of heart that is. If you can't get through the first two chapters of this, you will never read the book. It also takes the ability to visualize beyond the words, read between the lines and place yourself back in the late 1890's with its style of writing and the age they lived in.

    All that being said, this is a tremendous work, well worth the effort.

    And of course, once you've read it, you will see where Francis Ford Coppola got his inspiration from for Apocalypse Now.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012


    This book is very boring !!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2011


    this a good book and it has a good story to it

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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.

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  • Posted October 15, 2010

    Challenging but Thought-Provoking Read

    Heart of Darkness is an adventure novel and frame narrative by Joseph Conrad and was published by J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. in 1902 (month unknown). Heart of Darkness is Marlow's story of his epic and eye-opening adventure into the heart of Africa. Marlow signs as an ivory trader with a Belgian company during the height of great European imperialism. As he voyages through the extensive Belgian Congo, he witnesses the grave atrocities colonists have committed against black natives. He finds them receiving appalling treatment, starved and slaving for their captors. Throughout his expedition, he hears exciting stories of fellow ivory trader Kurtz, who appears larger-than-life. However, upon meeting him, he discovers Kurtz's obsession with ivory, which has turned into savagery. Joseph Conrad's main purpose in writing Heart of Darkness-and Marlow's reason for recounting his experiences-is to explain the horrors of imperialism. Marlow's disgust of European imperialist reflects author Joseph Conrad's view that imperialism is hypocritical. Imperialists view the African natives as savages, and justify their colonization of African lands by stressing the need to civilize them. This attitude, however, contradicts the Europeans' savage treatment of natives, making them slave for their captives or starve. Although Heart of Darkness is thoroughly thought-provoking (and less than a hundred pages), actually reading the novella is a challenge. Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness in turn-of-the-century Britain, and the diction can be painfully hard to understand. Reading this book is like trudging through thick molasses, because of its tedium and difficulty. Because of this, Heart of Darkness is not recommended for casual or light readers, and is most suitable for high school seniors or college students. However, this challenge can be rewarding to the student serious about exploring influential and meaningful literature.

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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.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Still Haunting

    Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness is a dark and haunting tale about the search for a substantial and mysteriously powerful man named Mr. Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz is a well-known man who has achieved a distinguished reputation for maintaining the ivory trade. His intelligence, persuasiveness, and cruelty are all characteristics that have produced his unbelievably amoral power. How can it be possible for a man to move into an unknown territory and build himself a foundation of power that sparks fear and yet simultaneously generates loyalty in less than a lifetime? Mr. Kurtz's ambition is driven by his "fascination with the abomination" (20). He has goals that he wants to achieve and he uses every means possible to obtain authority. In addition, his genius combined with his desire for power produces an unstoppable monster that consumes him. But, it can also consume anyone who has tasted the indulgence of omnipotence. The world of power and evil can be very enticing, and it can lure any man who has felt its pleasure. Mr. Kurtz isolates himself inside the heart of Africa, and his acquisition of power causes his moral sympathies and emotions to dwindle.

    Mr. Kurtz is a well-known man whose name, when mentioned, flashes images of ruthlessness and domination. Everyone in the ivory trade knew of Mr. Kurtz. The brickmaker at the Central Station states, "[Kurtz] is a prodigy . . . He is an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else" (47). Kurtz is highly reputable, and he displays leadership skills that few men have successfully achieved. Kurtz's future could be magnificent if he simply leaves Africa to return home to his country. He could live a life of luxury by selling his ivory in Europe. The company's Chief Accountant remarks, "He will be a somebody in the Administration before long. They, above -- the Coun-cil in Europe, you know -- mean him to be" (38). Mr. Kurtz chooses, however, to live in the jungles of Africa where he posseses god-like powers. His decision to live in a mysterious jungle where cannibals dwell, and where the conveniences of a civilized society are inexistent is one that is extremely extraordinary. His desire for power seems to outweigh any other personal need such as comfort and luxury, emotion and feeling such as love, and communication and contact with people of his kind. Marlow, the man who searches for Mr. Kurtz, asks him, "Do you know what you are doing?" Mr. Kurtz replies, "Perfectly" (106). Mr. Kurtz is totally confident in himself, but he does not realize what is truly happening to him.

    Mr. Kurtz is an evil man, yet he is said to be "remarkable" by several people in the story. Is Mr. Kurtz a man to be honored for his outstanding achievements? Or does his evil deeds in obtaining power classify him as a madman? Mr. Kurtz used much violence to obtain his power. He "raided the country," (92) frightening natives into following him. He threatened to shoot his friend, the harlequin man, for keeping ivory. He maintained his power by desiring "to have kings meet him at railway-stations on his return from some ghastly Nowhere" (110). Mr. Kurtz communicates only to gain power, and he does so by condescending others. He feels that he is superior to everyone else, and he tries to eliminate all opposition. Mr. Kurtz may have unlimited power, but in the process of obtaining power it seemed that he has lost all of his heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2010

    a not so pleasant journey into the heart of darkness

    In reviewing the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, I am going to be completely and brutally honest. There is only one positive aspect about the entire book, and that is that it is composed of some profound ideas. Unfortunately, the way in which the material is presented is not appealing in my opinion. There was very little of anything in the book that really grabbed my attention. Sometimes I found myself just reading without paying attention, for I had no interest in what I was reading.
    Likewise, during the period of research we did in class for the book I found myself straying from the main assignment. The idea of imperialism in the Congo area just doesn't grab my attention, for I am not interested in the matter. I knew as soon as we began the research that I would have trouble sustaining my attention span long enough to read the amount we had to read for homework each night.
    Also, some of the structure of the book is confusing to follow along with. The structure of the dialogue in the book sometimes confused me, especially because I was paying minimal attention to detail in the first place. That then caused me to miss the minor details that ended up being rather important. At most times I was very confused as to what character was talking, or what character was being described. Also, some of the words or sometimes even the formation of sentences just completely lost me. At that point is where I would begin to just read without paying attention, for I had lost all hope of comprehension.
    However, I did like the way Joseph Conrad represented darkness in many different ways. In the beginning of the book while Marlow is telling his story he says "An eerie feeling came over me. She seemed uncanny and fateful. Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of darkness the door of darkness, knitting black wool.Ave! Old knitter of black wool. Morturi te salutant" (Conrad 75). This is a reference to the darkness. Conrad is foreshadowing the darkness of the Congo. These women were the most interesting part of the entire book in my opinion, for they were all knowing, and they represented darkness. Many other things such as surroundings are also portrayed as dark and I liked how Conrad was able to tie the darkness into the story in many different ways.
    In conclusion, I thought that the book had good ideas. It was a good book for reading in school to analyze. However, the novella is not the type of literature that I would to read for fun on your own that you can really get into. I would not suggest this book because it takes a lot of focus to read, and it isn't very interesting. Most likely if it wasn't for Mrs. Drake I would never have read this book. However, if I was really into profound thoughts, had a very large vocabulary, and was interested in imperialism in the Congo, then it may have been possible to have a pleasant journey into the heart of darkness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2010

    Heart of Darkness in a Nutshell

    What comes to mind when reading Heart of Darkness, you may ask? I could answer in a lot of ways. For one, imperialism in Africa and the trouble of acquiring rivets. (Don't worry, you'll understand soon enough.) Once you get past the different wording and strange outbursts, you'll come to find that the author, Joseph Conrad, put in a wonderful moral: even with the light, there will always be some darkness in everyone.
    At first, the novella will look very challenging and you may want to quit. However, if you stick through it, you'll come to find that you've acquired a new perspective on some ideas. From experience, I know I have. The way this book only takes on the negative views of imperialism causes you to only understand half of how the idea works. It would be wise to also read a book on the more positive reasons for imperialism.
    Once you understand the perspective of the author, you'll be ready to read the book. To get you started, you should know that this is a book with hidden meanings, and you should be able to decipher these to gain the full meaning. The novella begins with Marlow, the protagonist, on the Nellie. He and a small group are floating on the Thames as Marlow begins to tell them about his adventure in the Congo and rescue of a man named Kurtz. He starts by telling them of how he got there and goes on to tell about the procedures you must go through to start your adventure. Conrad uses rich diction to describe Marlow's encounters as he works his way up to the inner station.
    The antagonist, Kurtz, is another rich character of Conrad's mind. He is rumored to be ill, causing Marlow to have to retrieve him. The natives love him and won't allow him to leave. This only makes trouble for those trying to recover him. The other problem is that Kurtz does nothing to prevent the natives from attacking people. Kurtz's heart has become to dark. His part is significant, though, as he brings about doubts for Marlow, and shows him a true darkness.
    I highly recommend this book to anyone between the ages of 15 and 16. As long as you go to Lee-Davis and take the pre-IB course for English. If that's not you, then you probably shouldn't bother. I'm not going to lie; this book will be exigent without the right mind set. If you're the kind of reader that likes cutesy stories with happy endings, then this isn't the right book for you. Just put the volume down and walk away, even run if you have to. This book, like the darkness, will devour you alive. For those of us who think we can handle it anyway, well, go for it. I'm not going to tell you that you can't do it; I'm merely stating that you probably won't be able to.

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  • Posted March 31, 2010

    A Navigable Darkness

    Are you a person who enjoys slightly disconcerting yet remarkable and enlightening fiction? If you are, "The Heart of Darkness" should be the next novel you read. "Heart of Darkness" is a journey into a world set apart from civilization, into the deep heart of Africa's ivory country where men are propelled by greed and power. This novella also discusses Joseph Conrad's perspective of how men can become corrupted by moral isolation and the lack of supervision or accountability.
    However, even if you are not interested in any of these things you may still enjoy this novel. I am not a fan of any of these topics, yet I was drawn in by the main character's urgency to reach his destination in the Congo of Africa. While I did not particularly enjoy Marlow's various deep reflections on the mind of man, I wanted him very badly to reach the Inner Station and retrieve Kurtz so that his mission would finally be complete. Perhaps if you read this book you will appreciate Marlow's drawn out opinions on such topics, but I was simply not interested in them as much as I was in him reaching Kurtz and returning safely to Europe.
    "The Heart of Darkness" is challenging to read, yet rewarding. The challenge comes from the rich symbolism and underlying meanings that Conrad uses frequently, and unless you are focused and think carefully about what you are reading, you won't understand the deep, intellectual thoughts that Conrad is trying to convey. Also, the author's point of view changes periodically throughout the book, making it difficult for the reader to know which character is talking. Marlow tells his story most of the time, but there is also a narrator on the same ship as Marlow who occasionally narrates a few paragraphs.
    In my opinion, the ending of a novel makes or breaks it. However, I found the ending of "Heart of Darkness" to be very mediocre, and I did not feel like it made the novel any better or worse. Marlow spent several months journeying to the Inner Station, and he finally reached Kurtz successfully. Unfortunately, Kurtz died soon after. Therefore, Marlow simply returned to England to inform Kurtz's fianc&#233; of her loss and continued on with his life as a sailor. I didn't think it was a very significant or memorable ending.
    As dense and dark as it is, this novella is still navigable for those who are determined to read it. I highly recommend you read it with your English class though, because it is hard to grasp the full meaning of it without guidance. I had to read several paragraphs at home by myself one night, and it was hard for me to focus. I also misinterpreted some parts and needed clarification from my teacher. However, if you put your mind to it, you can penetrate the darkness of Conrad's "literary voyage into the inner self" (back cover).

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