Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
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Discuss some of the possible meanings of darkness in Heart of Darkness.

Darkness has several meanings in Heart of Darkness, including the literal darkness of the river and jungle, the unconscionable treatment of the Africans who process and transport ivory, and, ultimately, Kurtz's evil and madness.

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Heart of Darkness is Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece, which is ostensibly about a trip through the Belgian Congo to retrieve a man named Kurtz, who has essentially declared himself a god to the natives, because of his control of the ivory trade.

There are many possible meanings of “darkness” in the narrative, some overt and some symbolic. On the surface, darkness is literal. Marlow, the protagonist , is sent by boat up the Congo River in Africa, probably in the 1880s or so, along the ivory trade routes. He notes that some sections of the river are so deep and dark that he sees it as a bad omen. Likewise, Marlowe did not expect the almost-total blackness when in the thick of the jungle itself. He notes that sunlight never penetrates the canopy in the...

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