Heart of Darkness

Imperialism and Africa, Meet Mr. Kurtz

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a novel about European imperialism and its far-reaching aims, methods, and effects. The author, Conrad, presents his own personal opinions through his central character, Marlow, who learns a great deal about imperialism while on a journey to the African Congo, and through his search for the infamous Kurtz throughout the novel. Although Heart of Darkness seems to be an anti-imperialistic work, this is not entirely true. Rather, Conrad criticizes the exaggerated romantic notion of imperialism. The novel begins with a discussion between Marlow and those accompanying him on the boat, concerning the idealistic imperialism of conquerors, especially that of the English, who were "bearers of a spark from the sacred fire." Marlow himself had "tingled with enthusiasm" at the thought of imperialism, as his friends do during their collective memories of the past, but this is all before his experience in the Congo, and his encounters with both the notion and the actually being of Kurtz, when he truly uncovers the crudeness of the Belgians and their imperialistic character.

Conrad introduces and develops Kurtz as a character whose shadowy nature was spurred on by something dark...

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