In one sense, Heart of Darkness is a compelling adventure tale of a journey into the heart of the Belgian Congo. The story presents attacks by indigenous peoples, descriptions of the jungle and the river, and characterizations of Europeans who, sometimes idealistically and sometimes simply for profit, invade the jungles to bring out ivory. The journey into the heart of the Congo, however, is also a symbolic journey into the darkness central to the heart and soul of humanity, a journey deep into primeval passion, superstition, and lust. Those such as the district manager who undertake this journey simply to rob the Congolese of their ivory without any awareness of the importance of the central darkness can survive. Similarly, Marlow, who is only an observer, never centrally involved, can survive to tell the tale; but those such as Mr. Kurtz who are aware of the darkness, who hope with conscious intelligence and a concern for all humanity to bring light into the darkness, are doomed. They are themselves swallowed up by the darkness and evil they had hoped to penetrate.
Joseph Conrad manages to make his point, a realization of the evil at the center of human experience, without ever breaking the pattern of his narrative or losing the compelling atmospheric and psychological force of the tale. The wealth of natural symbols, the clear development of character, and the sheer fascination of the story make this a novella that has been frequently praised...
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