Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In Heart of Darkness, could Marlow's journey symbolize one walking through Hell?

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Renata Kelly eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The previous educator's comparison of Conrad's Heart of Darkness to Dante's Inferno is extremely perceptive, for both stories involve the journey of a moral person into a place that lies beyond morality. In Dante's case, it is literally Hell; in Marlow's, it is the Belgian Congo. Both men move from the threshold of ordinary life into these extraordinary places, and both are horrified and fascinated by what they see on their travels. Both men are compelled to travel deeper and deeper into their respective territories in search of something (the way to Heaven for Dante and Kurtz for Marlow). The further they travel, the more appalling are the sights they behold. As they travel, their inherent morality and sanity is tested by their circumstances. In the end, both men must pass through a final trial in order to escape the places they are in (Dante must climb over Satan's back, while Marlow must resist the awful lure of Kurtz's madness).

On the basis of this comparison, Marlow's journey into the...

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