Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In Heart of Darkness, why do you suppose Conrad uses the story-within-a-story framework?I'm just wondering what might Conrad have been after by having Marlow tell his story to four friends rather than just having him tell the story directly.

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This is a great question, and to answer it we need to think very carefully about what Conrad wanted to achieve through his choice of how he told the story. The beginning and the end of the novel, presented by a first narrator who introduces Marlow 's tale and concludes on it, are usually referred to as the "frame" of the story, with the inner story falling in between the two "frames". One major effect of Conrad's use of a frame and two narrators is to provoke a chain-like reaction: Marlow's story is told to four listeners, one of whom tells it to the readers, who may react differently as the readers to. Among them are a lawyer, an accountant, the company director, and their profession makes them participants in the imperialist venture, and they serve its interests like the company director and the accountant Marlow meets in Brussels and in Africa. The unnamed first narrator is the only one who takes part imaginatively in Marlow's...

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