Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
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What is the significance of the title?

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Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness has a title with a double meaning. The title refers to the Congo, or the interior of Africa. Also, the title refers to the primitive nature present within each human.

During the time period of the novella, the continent of Africa (referred to as the Dark Continent) was still being explored by Westerners, and many of the heart, or inner, portions of the continent contained tribes and cultures unseen by Westerners previously. The title refers to this darkness, or unknown, present in the heart of Africa in the form of the people and cultures which inhabit it. Kurtz eventually becomes one of the “savages” who live in the heart of darkness.

The physical scenery, specifically the silence on the river Congo, the fog, and the dense jungle hiding the natives add to the idea of the heart of darkness.

This title also refers to the darkness within each human, and the journey associated with exploring the innermost thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Kurtz intended to travel into the heart of darkness and bring civility to the natives, but when he got there, his own heart of darkness took control and he became one of the savages. Kurtz’s heart of darkness took control over of his life. Marlow explores his heart of darkness as well but is able to control his morality and spirituality and return to civilization.

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