Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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How does ivory appear as an ironic symbol in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad?

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Ivory is an ironic symbol because it is pure, white, and elegant; the world that produces it to send it back to England, however, is anything but innocent.

The first time that Marlowe hears about Kurtz, Joseph Conrad writes:

Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading-post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at "the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together . . ."

Marlowe becomes excited to meet Kurtz and find out more about the man who is sending back such an excess of ivory. As he travels through the dark places on that map that always fascinated him, however, he sees that the world that produces ivory is dirty. People are abused and even killed in the industry.

At one point, Conrad compares ivory to a sleeping princess and the dangers that come with Africa to the dangers surrounding her. Ultimately, though, some of the greatest danger comes from an Englishman—Kurtz. He's taken over the outpost...

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