Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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What is Marlow's realization in Heart of Darkness?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Marlow does not come to any single, absolute realization or epiphany in the course of the story, in my view. It is more a matter of cumulative learning on different levels about Kurtz and about the whole business of colonialism. When we finally do get to the revelation, Conrad presents it ambiguously—or at least the conclusions we are to draw from it are implied rather than stated unequivocally. More is conveyed through suggestion than through direct statements.

Marlow finds things in seeming disarray upon arrival at the colonial outpost. Men are sick and mistreated; equipment is lying about unused. The trip to the interior to retrieve Kurtz is filled with mishaps. In the meantime, we hear a fragmented account of Kurtz himself, as if he's a figure of myth, mysterious and powerful. The actual truth—that Kurtz has gone mad and set himself up as a crazed god over the natives—does not come as that much of a surprise to us, with our perspective from over a century in the future. The...

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