Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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Conrad's portrayal of women in Heart of Darkness has led many critics to accuse him of being a misogynist. Do you agree with this view? Explain and illustrate.

Though some critics find Conrad's exclusion of women in Heart of Darkness to be misogynistic, the novella can also be interpreted as empowering women on a subtextual level.

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Over the years, Conrad has come in for some pretty damning criticism for his portrayal of women. Feminist scholars in particular have been especially scathing, accusing him of perpetuating the existence of a man's world by employing narrative strategies that exclude women from his works. This has the effect, they argue, of creating a distinctively male understanding of the world which necessitates the exclusion of women characters and readers.

On this reading, a paradigm example of Conrad's alleged misogyny is Marlow's telling of his tale to a small group of men aboard the Nellie. Women are not part of this circle, nor can they ever be. This is a man's story, about men, told by a man to other men.

In response to the many accusations of misogyny leveled at Conrad some scholars, including female scholars, have argued that the charge is fundamentally unjust. Taking Heart of Darkness as an example, they see Conrad as generating a subtle subtext in which the distinctive space which the author has...

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