Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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Many works of literature feature characters who have been given a literal or figurative gift. The gift may be an object, or it may be a quality such as uncommon beauty, significant social position, great mental or imaginative faculties, or extraordinary physical powers. Yet this gift is often also a burden or a handicap. Describe how Kurtz or Marlow from Heart of Darkness has been given a gift that is both an advantage and a problem. Analyze the complex nature of the gift and how the gift contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

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The character of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness looms large over the entirety of the story, even though he is not met by Marlow until the third and final section. Instead, Conrad uses the other characters in the story to build Kurtz’s legend as a powerful, enigmatic, and dangerous man. The way in which Kurtz is mythologized throughout the novella illuminates Kurtz’s gift as a charismatic leader who is able to inspire loyalty in his followers.

This gift of charismatic leadership provides Kurtz with advantages: it keeps him safe from the native Africans, who view outsiders as a threat; it enables him to accrue power; and it allows him to build an army of loyal disciples. In short, it allows Kurtz not...

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