Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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In Heart of Darkness, how does Conrad create the "atmosphere" or "mood" in the novel?

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Conrad's title, Heart of Darkness, refers most obviously to the interior of what was once known as the Congo in Africa—that had for many years, been a non-navigable source of mystery. The Congo was dangerous and foreign to those who ventured within—primarily to become rich from the area's natural resources: ivory, and later, rubber.

It is in the maniacal quest for power and wealth, and the abuse and murder of the Congo's natives, that Conrad brings to life through the observations of Marlow, the story's narrator. "Darkness" is the focus of the mystery, the inhuman behavior of the whites on the region's inhabitants, and finally, the loss of humanity Marlow continuously witnesses. This culminates in the realization of the madness that has beset Kurtz, who Marlow has traveled inland to bring home.

The mood or atmosphere is created with descriptions of the land, the behavior of those Marlow meets, and essentially in the "horror" (as Kurtz identifies it) of the degradation of "civilized" man and the destruction of the innocents in the Congo.

Marlow describes the wanton destruction of the land—the senseless destruction of a cliffside with dynamite—which serves no purpose, and the pollution of the landscape with litter:

I came upon a boiler...then...an undersized railway-truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air...The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal.

The "Company" has shown a total disregard for this new territory—the explosions on the cliffside are without purpose: there is no road being cleared. Here are actions without intent or logic...perhaps a foreshadowing of the madness Marlow has yet to witness.

At the first station, Marlow sees the subjugation of the natives—enslaved:...

(The entire section contains 585 words.)

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