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What is the meaning of the title of "Heart of Darkness"?

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dancingurl216 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 29, 2007 at 11:31 AM via web

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What is the meaning of the title of "Heart of Darkness"?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 29, 2007 at 11:42 AM (Answer #1)

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The title can be understood both literally and symbolically.  Literally, the continent is dark and forboding, with an unexplored heart  (the Congo) in its depths.  Symbolically, the "heart of darkness," is the journey of Marlow and his companions.  Their travels  can be understood as a journey into the exploration of the darkness of the men's souls (sin) , reflected back to them by the "dark continent" which they explore. Their journey out of the Congo can be interpreted as a parallel to man's redemption from sin.   

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erin-milburn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted October 30, 2007 at 12:25 AM (Answer #2)

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Another interpetation of the title can refer to the character of Kurtz and his hunger for power which leads to his ultimate descent into madness. This concept can be related to the adage that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Kurtz was made into a god by the natives but his imperfect humanity was unable to support the weight of that obligation. Conrad makes the obvious point here about potential consequences of the imperialist mandate, but he also is speaking to the deeper notion of man's fundamental drive to be god of his own world and the danger inherent in that quest.

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user890483 | Student, Kindergarten | eNoter

Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:21 PM (Reply #1)

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will you please help me to explain it more...

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chrisyhsun | TA , College Freshman | Salutatorian

Posted July 4, 2014 at 12:55 AM (Answer #3)

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The title "Heart of Darkness" can be interpreted in two different ways:

  1. In reference to the physical place of the Congo in Africa. Congo is described as the heart of the African continent and a place shrouded in mystery with its savage people and plentiful ivory. Thus, the "heart" refers to the center of the continent where the Congo is located and the "darkness" speaks to the people and uncivil habits of the people.
  2. in reference to the abstract concept of sin in the human heart. Marlow's story describes many of his expedition peers as morally corrupt. They have no qualms about lying or manipulating so long as they receive the power and wealth they so crave. Thus, the "heart" refers to the human heart and the "darkness" refers to evil or sin.

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