Are there any connections between Joseph Conrad's life and his book Heart of Darkness?   

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though his novella Heart of Darkness is obviously fiction, Joseph Conrad drew heavily from his own personal experiences to write the book. For instance, Conrad traveled widely as a young man while working as a sailor. He originally began his seafaring life as a member of the French merchant marines, but by the time he was 21, Conrad had joined the British merchant marines (it was this job that enabled him to become a British citizen, as he was born Polish). During his travels, Conrad visited Asia, Australia, India, and Africa, including the Belgian Congo.

We can see many parallels between Conrad's life and Heart of Darkness. Marlow, for instance, is also a sailor who has traveled to distant continents. Additionally, both Conrad and Marlow visited the Belgian Congo, and so we can assume that Marlow's description of the place relies heavily upon Conrad's own experience. However, in comparing the novella to real life, it's important to remember that Marlow is not meant to be a stand-in for Conrad; Marlow is a fictional character. As such, while Conrad certainly drew from his own adventures to create Heart of Darkness, it's important to remember that the book is still a work of fiction, and cannot be taken to be entirely autobiographical.

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Heart of Darkness

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