Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In the frame story section of Heart of Darkness, what details does Conrad include to create a sense of comfort and peacefulness? What elements contrast the serenity?

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The frame is a bit misleading, in my opinion. It is meant to draw a contrast between the civilized Thames and the African jungle where most of the story will take place. The men are aboard a “cruising yawl”; they watch the sun set over the river, crowded with shipping; they seem to enjoy civilized comforts—the lawyer lies on a rug; the accountant has a box of dominoes.

Conrad’s point, however, is to show just the opposite. The Thames, and England itself, may seem civilized—in the gathering darkness, the “old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks”—but the “service” of the river is not guaranteed, as Marlowe reminds his friends when he breaks the silence by observing that “this also . . . has been one of the dark places of the earth.” However long man may have civilized a place, there remains, as Marlowe says, a “fascination for the abomination” and a desire to subdue...

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