In "Heart of Darkness," what attitudes are evident throughout the book, (besides racial attitudes)? 

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hmartin17 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," there are many different attitudes that are reflected in the text. Of course, racial attitudes are the most obvious and most prominent, for the text centers around the idea of African slavery and hostile native tribes. However, there are several other attitudes present in the text as well. 

Because "Heart of Darkness" is set during a time of colonisation, exploration, and imperialism, all these themes are relevant to the story. European explorers, sailors, and traders alike see the African jungle as their property because they "discovered" it and are using it for profit. They lack empathy or sympathy for the native people and the land, for the story occurs before Europeans believed that people of different races had reason and deserved equal rights.

The theme of darkness, evident even in the title, may refer to more specific themes of slavery, but also to the horror of death, the cruelty of colonisation, to humanity's lack of knowledge and empathy, to the harsh business of trading, and to the general exploitation of a country (the mining and ivory trades described in the text). Also, the darkness may refer to man's ability to remember and be haunted by memories (of Marlow's voyage), and to the darkness of lies, (when Marlow lies to Kurtz's Intended). "Heart of Darkness" is a complex novella in which many different attitudes are present. 

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Heart of Darkness

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