Heart of Darkness

Darkness at the End of the Jungle: Joseph Conrad Reveals Underlying Human Nature 11th Grade

One of humanity's greatest fears is of the unknown. Not only for what may be there but how it could change the person that chooses to venture inside. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a classic novel that details that very fear. One man, Kurtz, takes on the unknown but is overcome by inexplicable forces, drastically altering his life. A second man, Marlow, must rescue Kurtz while fighting off those same forces to complete his task. Throughout the story, it becomes clearer to Marlow how the unknown transforms people. The natives of Central Africa are quite unlike his civilized caucasian counterparts and it is striking to Marlow how Kurtz begins to act like them. The central question is, why? Why does Kurtz transform from a respected ivory trader to a man that stoops so low and straddles the edge of insanity? Conrad answers this difficult question in an extended metaphor, the title of his novel. Through his depiction of the African natives and Kurtz, Conrad develops the phrase, “heart of darkness” to represent the savage instinct inside all people.

Employing the confused perspective of Marlow, Conrad establishes the natives of the Congo as the benchmark for a primeval people. Conrad sets the tone of the novel as Marlow...

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