Heart of Darkness

No Darkness, Please...We're British: The Inner Darkness of the Soul in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

It has been said that in writing his novella Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad set out to create a difficult work; exceedingly difficult, in fact, to his contemporary Victorian audience, for whom a thin veneer of "surface-truths" constituted the fine line between civilization and primal darkness. In a swift, brilliant work of little more than 70 pages, Conrad unveils the inner darkness of the human soul, negating the notions of man as a civilizing agent that had fostered the feverish imperialism of the time. Conrad's vague diction, images of the light of "civilized" culture and the darkness that hides behind it, and the use of a frame narrator all serve to show the difficulty of discovering the true nature of the soul. All of these devices suggest an entity that cannot be fully grasped initially; an entity that is always present, but incomprehensible in nature and magnitude. This entity is indeed the inner darkness of man. At its surface, Conrad delves into the African wilderness, but at the core (and thus, at the heart of the novel) he is delving deep into his own soul.

Throughout the novel, Conrad suggests the existence of an entity that refuses to be discovered. In describing it, he uses...

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