Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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What do the "drums" symbolize in "Heart of Darkness"?

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The drums in the novel share a close link with the title. Drums are symbols of the rhythm of life. Their beat can be equated to the beating of a heart. Since the heart is central to our survival, its beating indicates that we are alive and once it stops, we die. The drums in the novel also signify the heart of the jungle. Its beating indicates that there is life and once the drums go silent, life has ceased.

In terms of the themes of greed and destruction depicted in the novel, the drums become an apt symbol for those who have become victims of so called civilized man's lust for material wealth. Drums are a token of their civilization: it is the means by which they communicate, celebrate, praise and show obeisance to their gods. If their culture is destroyed, the drums also die.

Furthermore, the drums symbolize the natives' distinct contrast to those who have invaded their culture and have come to oppress them. The invaders see them as primitive, uncivilized and savage. They arrogantly...

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