Heart of Darkness Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

When published in 1902 in a volume with two other stories (Youth and The End of the Tether), Heart of Darkness was praised for its portrayal of the demoralizing effect life in the African wilderness supposedly had on European men. One respected critic of the time, Hugh Clifford, said in the Spectator that others before Conrad had written of the European's decline in a ‘‘barbaric’’ wilderness, but never ‘‘has any writer till now succeeded in bringing … it all home to sheltered folk as does Mr. Conrad in this wonderful, this magnificent, this terrible study.’’ Another early reviewer, as quoted in Leonard Dean's Joseph Conrad's ‘Heart of Darkness’: Backgrounds and Criticisms, called the prose ‘‘brilliant’’ but the story ‘‘unconvincing.’’

In his review published in Academy and Literature in 1902, Edward Garnett called the volume's publication ‘‘one of the events of the literary year.’’ Garnett said when he first read Heart of Darkness in serial form, he thought Conrad had ‘‘here and there, lost his way.’’ But upon publication of the novel in book form, he retracted that opinion and now held it ‘‘to be the high-water mark of the author's talent.’’ Garnett went on to call Heart of Darkness a book that ‘‘enriches English literature’’ and a ‘‘psychological masterpiece.’’ Garnett was particularly taken with Conrad's keen observations of the collapse of the white man's morality when he is released from the restraints of European law and order and set down in the heart of Africa, given free reign to trade for profit with the natives. For sheer excitement, Garnett compared Heart of Darkness favorably to

(The entire section is 733 words.)