Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness Discussion questions

22. What scenes of the journey reveal to Marlow the heartless exploitation of the natives and the futility of the colonial system? (10-12) 23. Look at a map of Africa. What river does Marlow journey upward? THE OUTER STATION: 24. Describe what Marlow sees at the First Station. What is signified by the abandoned machinery, the chaotic appearance, the suffering of the slaves? 25. What is the “devil of rapacious and pitiless folly”? 26. In the grove of death Marlow sees a slave wearing a bit of “white worsted” about his neck. How does this detail connect to the theme of European invasion of Africa?27. Describe the Chief Accountant. Why does Marlow notice him? What does he do?28. What does the accountant represent? Do you admire or dislike him? Why? 29. What is Marlow’s attitude toward the accountant and the work going on at the Outer Station?30. Why do you think Conrad included the accountant in the novel? 31. Find the reference to Kurtz. What kind of person do you imagine him to be? 32. Marlow emphasizes the motif of “paths” as he describes the land journey to the Central Station. What is the symbolic significance? What does Marlow say about death?THE CENTRAL STATION: 33. When Marlow reaches the Central Station, what does he discover about the ship he is to command?34. What are his reactions to the explanation given to him? How is the situation concerning the rivets typical of the colonial system as he sees it?35. Who is “the flabby devil” who is “running the show”? 36. Why is Marlow so frustrated by what he sees in Africa and by the Europeans he meets?37. What sort of character is the manager; how is he described?38. What does he learn about Kurtz?39. What does the overheard conversation between the manager and the brickmaker contribute to his knowledge of Kurtz?40. What is Marlow’s attitude toward the manager and toward the work of the Central Station? 41. Look at the description of the oil painting by Kurtz of the blindfolded woman. Remember this image; it will have important connections at other points in the novel. What is the meaning of Kurtz’s painting? 42. What impression does the painting give of Kurtz the painter? 43. What impression does the painting give of the woman? 44. What do you make of the strange episode of the fire and the hold in the bottom of the watering pail? What does this event contribute to Marlow’s and the reader’s sense of European life in Africa? 45. What details do you learn about the character of the brickmaker? What is a “papier-mâché Mephistopheles? Why does he call the brickmaker a papier-mâché Mephistopheles?46. What is Marlow’s lie? Why does he tell it? Is it justified? Explain.47. As he assumes his task, Marlow says that work is a way of keeping hold on “the redeeming facts of life.” What do you think he means? Why is this attitude toward work important for him in Africa? 48. In the midst of the narrative, Marlow stops and speaks to his listeners: “Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream. . . “ What effect is created? What is the significance of the repetition of the verb “to see”? Marlow seems to call special attention to the particular episode that is occurring, suggesting that it is important and especially difficult to understand. What do you think he wants us to see? 49. Why are rivets important to Marlow? Again, he talks about work: “I don’t like work. . . but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself. Your own reality. . . “ As the novel progresses, think about whether or not this is true for the European invaders of Africa, for Marlow, for Kurtz. 50. Who is the dark figure in front of the manager’s hut? Give evidence for you answer. 51. What does Marlow say about the Eldorado Exploring Expedition? What is the true nature of the expedition? 52. To what themes is the Eldorado Exploring Expedition connected? 53. What are the different stages of Marlow’s journey and what does each stage represent?

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