Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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Discuss the symbolism of the river as a snake in Heart of Darkness.

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Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness introduces the reader to Marlow, who dreamt his whole life of traveling into Africa. He is given a chance in the form of a rescue mission to locate Kurtz, the manager of a trading station in the Belgian Congo. At the start of the book, Marlow describes a map he had when he was younger that depicted "a big and mighty river" that unfurled from the ocean through the inland of Africa and resembled a snake. Marlow says that the river "fascinated me as a snake would a bird—a silly little bird."

During his journey to rescue Kurtz, Marlow travels deeper into the heart of the country, and he faces temptations of corruption and savagery. When he finally locates Kurtz, he discovers that the man who was meant to "civilize" the African natives has been taken in by them and turned by the savagery he witnessed.

As Marlow sails into Africa, he follows the path of the snake from its head into the belly of the beast. He is met with more provocations and proof of corruption...

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