Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
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What are two ways Marlow changes on his journey, apart from how he sees Europeans and Africans and the latter's living conditions?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Marlow changes his position in relationship to imperialism, developing a more critical stance. This change involves his attitude toward The Company, as he comes to reject his previous endorsement of its works. Closely related is his new understanding, once he returns to England, of Kurtz. He sees not only that this man had become a monster but also that any person placed in a similar position could likewise lose, or throw away, their humanity: he might be Kurtz. While this recognition is not welcome, it is nonetheless a route toward empathy and even compassion. A second way he changes, then, is in developing greater compassion for his fellow humans. This is indicated by his lying to Kurtz’s fiancée at the book’s end, sparing her from the horrible truth.

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In Heart Of Darkness, Marlow changes in the sense that he moves towards self,whilst moving towards the centre of earth, taking on a whole new perspective as he does so. His character develops as he is able , on his voyage on the sea, to perceive himself and the whole of society with a sharper clarity than he has envisaged it before. The infinite blackness or dark at the earth's heart throws all this into relief for him, the 'scales fall from his eyes' (as it says in the bible) and all of a sudden he 'sees the light.' His long travails down into the earth represent many similar voyages in literature that require a downward spiral to the pits or bowels of existence/earth before the rise like a phoenix from the ashes - and a triumphant seeing/acquisition of some sort of light, usually spiritual. This triumph needs to have a deep and fundamental 'change of heart' by the traveller.

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