Darkness In Heart Of Darkness

How is "darkness" used as a symbol in Heart of Darkness?

"Darkness" is used as a symbol in Heart of Darkness to represent the bleakness of reality and human nature. Conrad employs the symbol of darkness both literally and figuratively, through the dark sky and through the moral and ethical corruption in the Congo.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To answer this, we need to come to an understanding of the Western attitude of Conrad's period regarding the colonial empires that had been established.

One often hears Africa described in the European mindset as the "dark continent." Despite the slave trade and exploitation of Africa that had been going on for several hundred years, Europeans still, by the end of the nineteenth century, knew little, if anything, about the interior of Africa. In Heart of Darkness, the disappearance of Kurtz deep within the unnamed country of Marlow 's visit is emblematic of this mystery the Western mind had nurtured concerning not just Africa but any of the lands peopled by non-whites. But "darkness" also refers to the darkness that exists within Kurtz's own mind and soul. What is it, Marlow keeps wondering, that this man (about whom there is a mystical and dangerous aura) is actually doing in the interior? What has motivated him, and what has created the lurid notoriety with which Kurtz has been invested?...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 568 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team