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The Heart of Darkness is to be understood as a literal journey into the Congo (a physical darkness) as well as a metaphorical journey into the heart of the individual. In the novella, the individual is Marlow. We have evidence of this being a journey of self discovery by the comments that Marlow inserts while narrating the literal journey. This metaphorical journey is double layered as Marlow tells the reader the story of Kurtz. Immediately Marlow identifies himself with Kurtz. The difference being that Marlow does not succumb to the darkness which may be found in every man's soul as Kurtz has.
Marlow's discovery of Kurtz is shrouded in mystery. Slowly Marlow learns who Kurtz was and who Kurtz became as well as learning about himself. He gets close enough to the edge to peer into the darkness but does not fall into it. They mystery of Kurtz and the process of learning about him can also symbolize the process of learning about one's self.
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