Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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Describe Marlow's first impressions of the European presence in Africa, captured in his observations regarding the French steamer firing into the coast and regarding the Company's lower station. Contrast the Europeans' naming of the Africans as "enemies" to Marlow's view of the Africans. Consider Marlow's description of the "devils" he has seen. What are the different types of "devils" he describes? Why is he so appalled by the "flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly" that he sees in most Europeans in Africa? What does he mean?

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"The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires."

Marlow, the protagonist of Conard's 1899 book Heart of Darkness, travels to Africa and is confronted with the ravages of European colonialism. The "Scramble for Africa" divided the continent in the 19th century. Marlow's initial impressions of colonialism are quite negative. This is ironic. European powers frequently justified their imperialism by claiming they were bringing "civilization" to the dark continent. But what Marlow experiences is waste, decay, and chaos. As he bluntly states:...

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