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Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad

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How can you apply Roland Barthe's essay "The Death of the Author" to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness?

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Roland Barthes's "The Death of the Author" argues that the author's biographical context has no bearing on the story being told. In other words, that the author and the story are completely separate and in no way related. Conrad's Heart of Darkness contradicts Barthe's theory, in part. Much like his main character, Marlow, Conrad was once hired to be the captain of a steamer on the Congo River. And, like Marlow, arrived to find his ship in disrepair. However, Conrad then became ill, had to return home, and never actually captained the steamer. These are where the connections between Conrad's life and the plot of Heart of Darkness end. Everything else is sheer fiction. We must ask ourselves, then, if Conrad would have ever conjured the story of Heart of Darkness without his personal experiences. Barthes would have said yes. Many others would say no.

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