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Heart of Darkness
     

Heart of Darkness

3.6 121
by Joseph Conrad
 

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The story opens with an unnamed narrator on board a sailing yacht anchored in the Thames Estuary downstream from London and near Gravesend. He is with four friends, and dusk is falling as they wait for some hours for the turning of the tide. The narrator briefly describes the others, all of whom seem to be middle-aged men. One is called Marlow – the only one

Overview

The story opens with an unnamed narrator on board a sailing yacht anchored in the Thames Estuary downstream from London and near Gravesend. He is with four friends, and dusk is falling as they wait for some hours for the turning of the tide. The narrator briefly describes the others, all of whom seem to be middle-aged men. One is called Marlow – the only one who "still followed the sea." Marlow makes a comment about London having been "one of the dark places on earth", and then begins a story of how he once took a job as captain of a river steamboat in Africa.
Marlow begins by ruminating on how Britain's obscure image among Ancient Roman officials must have been similar to Africa's image among 19th-century European officials. He describes how his "dear aunt" used many of her contacts to secure the job for him, calling him an "emissary of light."
When he arrives in Africa at the job, the other white men he encounters, the company agents, he dislikes as they strike him as shallow and untrustworthy – one is like "papier-mache". The company's main business seems to be buying ivory from the natives with beads, cloth and bits of brass. They speak often of one of the company's agents named Kurtz, stationed further up-river, who has quite a reputation in many (and somewhat mysterious) ways. Kurtz seems to be a rogue ivory collector, "essentially a great musician", journalist, skilled painter and "universal genius".
Marlow arrives up river at the Central Trading Station run by a manager who is an unwholesome conspiratorial character. He finds that his steamship has been sunk and suspects the manager of causing the "accident," and spends three months repairing it, including a frustrating wait for spare parts. His first assignment is a voyage up-river to Kurtz's station to collect ivory and Kurtz himself. There is a rumour regarding Kurtz being ill; this makes the delays in repairing the ship all the more costly. During the delay, Marlow overhears the manager talking about his fearful dislike of Kurtz, who appears to be a threat to the manager's powerful position, and how he wishes to execute a particular one of Kurtz's minions. Eventually Marlow, the manager and three other white agents set out with a crew of blacks from a cannibal tribe on a long and difficult voyage up the river.
As they near Kurtz's station they find an unexpected hut by the river with stacked firewood together with a note saying that the wood is for them but that they should approach cautiously. Shortly after the steamer has taken on the firewood it is surrounded by a dense fog. When the fog clears, the ship is attacked by an unseen band of natives, who shoot arrows from the safety of the forest, killing one of the crew. When they later reach Kurtz's station, which is surrounded by a collection of natives' severed head on poles, they are first met by a guileless Russian traveler, sometimes referred to as the harlequin because of his motley-like clothing. The Russian assures them that everything is fine and informs them that he is the one who had lived in the downstream hut and who had left the firewood. The Russian, a lone and aimless trader in the wilderness, came across Kurtz's station unexpectedly and has become a "disciple" of Kurtz, who seems to have the power to dominate anyone he meets. Marlow and his companions find that Kurtz has persuaded the natives to treat him as a god, and has led brutal raids in the surrounding territory in search of ivory. Marlow also recounts the brief appearance at the station of an awe-inspiring and enigmatic African woman, who may be Kurtz's mistress. The Russian, learning through Marlow of the manager's prior talk of punishing him, quietly flees the station, though not before admitting that it was Kurtz, refusing to be taken away from his god-like place in the wilderness, who ordered Marlow's boat to be attacked.
Due to Kurtz's ailing condition, however, Marlow and his crew take him aboard their ship themselves and depart. Kurtz is lodged in Marlow's pilot-house and Marlow begins to see that Kurtz is every bit as grandiose as previously described, especially with regards to the enthralling tone of his speech. However, Marlow finds himself disappointed with Kurtz's childish schemes for fame and fortune. During this time, Kurtz gives Marlow a collection of papers and a photograph for safekeeping, as both had witnessed the Manager going through Kurtz's belongings. The photograph is of a beautiful young woman whom Marlow correctly assumes is Kurtz's fiancée, or as Marlow calls her, "his Intended."
One night Marlow happens upon Kurtz, obviously near death. As Marlow comes closer with a candle, Kurtz seems to experience a "supreme moment of complete knowledge" and speaks his last words: "The horror! The horror!" Marlow believes this to be Kurtz's reflection on the events of his life. Marlow does not tell the others immediately of Kurtz's death; the news is instead pres

Product Details

BN ID:
2940013366947
Publisher:
DB Publishing House
Publication date:
10/03/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
419 KB

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Includes a biography of the Author

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 3, 1857
Date of Death:
August 3, 1924
Place of Birth:
Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
Place of Death:
Bishopsbourne, Kent, England
Education:
Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France

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The Heart Of Darkness 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 121 reviews.
theokester More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Tsunami<p> Gender: (&female)<p> Species: A Blue Typhoonerang dragon from How to Train Your Dragon.<p> Age: 40 years (dragonet)<p> Looks: Look up 'httyd typhoonerang' on Google Images. Her body scales are a sea blue, and her belly scales are a pearly white. Bright orange eyes with black cat pupils. There are two black backward-curving horns on the back of her head. Her wings are very big compared to her body, and their membranes are the same color as her body scales. Long, whiplike tail.10 feet long from front talon to tailtip, 4 ft tall, and a wingspan of 19 feet.<p> Personality: Cheerful and curious. She is always nosing around in everything and often gets into trouble. Is a big-time pest. She turns into a wild demon in a fight, though.<p> History: I'm a dragonet! I have no history!<p> Crush: <p> Mate: Are you kidding me?!<p> Dragonets: Dragonets don't have dragonets...<p> Parents & Family: Unknown. Since she came, she sticks around with Saphira most of the time.<p> Weapons: Teeth, horns, claws, tail. She is not quite old enough to breathe fire yet.<p> Likes: Forests, water, just about any type of fish, chasing people and other dragons, nosing around, being a pest.<p> Dislikes: Plains, napping, confinement, depressed people & dragons, stiff people & dragons, eels.<p> Other: Go and find out.<p> - &star Tsun&alpha<_>m&iota &star.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name -- Poppy. <br> Age -- Timeless. <br> Species -- A Chimaera from the I Am Number 4 series. <br> Gender -- Male. <br> Appearance -- He's a shapeshifter. So . . . I'll just describe him when necessary. <br> Persona -- He is very protective, and a tad insane. <br> Likes -- Clara. <p> I don't know what else to put, honestly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Dante Holimion (Diamonddew). Age: 32. Race: Dunmer (dark elf). Past family: Adran Holimion (dad, deceased), Althaea Holimion (mom, decesased), Bryn Holimion (sister, alive, lives in Skyrim), Rael Holimion (brother, alive, lives in Morrowind). Current family: Katrina Holimion (wife), Thia Holimion (daughter, wood elf), Skylar Holimion (son, high elf), Felony Holimion (daughter, dark elf). Looks: Jet black skin, red eyes, small ponytail, orcish armor. Powers: Shapeshifting into dragon named Morrowind. Personality: Get to know me. Other: Nien.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Flora Lollipop <p> Age: 17 <p> Species: Human <p> Looks: Frizzy carmel hair. Green eyes. Always wears a purple shirt that says 'Live Life and Love Animals' <p> Crush: None <p> Height: 5'9 <p> Personality: Kind. Cannot hurt her feelings <p> Powers: None <p> Siggy: Fl0r &alpha L0llip0p <p> Anything else ask.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name Arya<p> Age ? <p> Gender &female <p> Personality Meet Me! <p> Appearance Dark blue eyes. Slim body. Waist length light brown hair. Silver and peach colored wings. Normally wearsba graphic tshirt with a swan on it. Has a peach and silver streak in her hair. <p> Crush not yet. <p> ////////Siggy &star A&pi.y&alpha &star
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: learn to look at the headline.--- Age: 16--- Gender: girl--- Height: 4'7(about average)--- Weight: you dont ask a girl that!---- Looks: glossy waistlength black hair with red and green streaks. Green eyes with specks of gold. Roundsided heartshaped face. Small nose. Sparkly lip gloss. Mascara. Small waist. Nice hips and body.---Wears: tightfitted red tanktop. Black miniskirt. Black boots up to just below the knee. Always wears a ruby necklace around her throat. She found it and it seems to hold a mysterious power.---Personality/attitude: usually nice and friendly but can come up as snotty sometimes. Also brave, fair, noble, and willing.---Likes: her pet dragon, adventure, good hearts, food, and trying new things.--- Dislikes: evil hearts, seeing others hurt, and broccoli.--- Dragon: named Fusion. He is a beautiful red dragon with an orange belly and chest. He follows Everly around and loves her dearly. He will also protect her with his life. He is loyal to her. He is a fire breed type dragon.--- Other identities: pokemon girl, Topaz, and Rebecca.---Other: JUST ASK ON ANY OTHER RESULT.-------------
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And somebody waking up does not destroy somebody else!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name :: Lieutenant Buttface<p>Gender :: walrus flavored potatoe<p>Age :: 400[looks to be about 17]<p>Species :: elf<p>Height :: about 4'3<p>Looks :: long copper hair that is slightly curly. It reaches her waist. She has sharp green eyes and, like all elves, pointed ears. She is odly short for her age. She always wears a tight fitting black leather jumpsuit and knee-high tight fitting black boots<p>Crush :: none...<p>Dragon-crush[the dragon she wants to have a bond with] :: Saphira<p>Weapons :: a bow that when she pulls back the string, an elemental arrow materializes on the string, a long curved blade, and a water gun[jk]. She has a small dagger hidden in her jumpsuit<p>Personality :: wary, kind and gentle, very fiery temper if you threaten her friends or family, quiet and shy sometimes<p>Parents :: Ariana Silverblade[mother, dead], James Silverblade[father, dead], Thomas Silverblade[brother, dead], and Selena Silverblade[sister, alive]<p>Likes :: being with friends and family, sometimes being alone, reading, singing<p>Dislikes :: timber wolves, most dragons[bad experiences]<p>Special Powers :: nature, shapeshifting[when threatened or angry], and ice<p>History :: when Katrina was only 3, a large group of dragons attacked her village. They killed her whole family except her brother and sister. She an her siblings escaped from the flames and hid in a nearby forest. The dragons kiled everyone in the village. The siblings cared for eachother. They survived for a while. Then, when Katrina was only 13, she and her siblings were out hunting. She and her sister heard a scream. They recognized it as their brother, Thomas. They met up with each other and went out looking for him. They came into a clearing and found him lying on a bed of moss, surrounded by a pool if blood<p>Other :: ask<p>Siggy :: &#9830KatriNa&#9830<p>|__KatRiNa__|
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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This wad okay Not as good as id hoped it would be, but you cant like them all
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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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