Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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What is the purpose of the frame-story structure in Heart of Darkness?

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In Heart of Darkness, a frame story is presented to the reader as the narrator tells the reader of a time in which he and other men were on a boat with a gentleman named Charlie Marlow. This Charlie Marlow then tells them, in his own first-person account, of his own sea-faring adventures. The frame story begins as the novel reads,

No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow: "I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans came here . . . "

The purpose of this frame-story is debatable. One suggestion as to why Conrad chose a frame story specifically is that he hoped to create a sense of disbelief in the story. As the novella is filtered through more and more narrators (the narrator, Charlie Marlow, dialogue that Marlow himself recalls), the dependability and validity of the tale become more questionable. It's much like that old game played in elementary school in which an original statement is told in secret from one student...

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