Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In one section of Heart of Darkness, the narrator and his companions are sailing on the River Thames near London, England. What does Marlow mean when he says in paragraph 2 that England "has been one of the dark places of earth"?

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In Heart of Darkness, Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) draws from his own experience in Africa; he once piloted a Belgian steamboat on a trading mission that took him through rivers and tributaries deep into the Congo.

As the novel opens, an unnamed narrator and four other long-time friends friends relax aboard a yacht, the Nellie, on the River Thames: the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean and the place from which a great many journeys of exploration and conquest began. The sun is setting, and the men look out at the beautiful colors of the water and sky.

One of the five companions, Charles Marlow, breaks the silence:

"And this also, said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the dark places of the earth."

He goes on to describe how, "nineteen hundred" years earlier, England must have appeared wild and mysterious (a "dark place") to the first conquering Romans who arrived by ship. At the time the novel was written, England had become what Rome once was—the largest empire of the known world.

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