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Heart of Darkness


Conrad, whose original name was J zef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, was born near ... The river = Styx, Lethe (Rivers in the underworld) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness
  • Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) Conrad, whose original
name was Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, was
born near Berdichev, Poland (now in Ukraine), the
son of a Polish nobleman who was also a political
journalist and anarchist. From his father the boy
acquired a love of literature, including romantic
tales of the sea. He was orphaned at the age of
12, and when he was 16 years old he left
Russian-occupied Poland and made his way to
Marseille, France. For the next four years he
worked on French ships, ran guns for the Carlist
pretender to the Spanish throne, and became
involved in a love affair that ended in his
attempted suicide. He then entered the British
merchant service, becoming a master mariner and a
naturalized British subject in 1886 a few years
later he changed his name to sound more English.
Joseph Conrad
Most famous novels Almayers Folly (1889) Lord
Jim (1900) Heart of Darkness (1902) Nostromo
(1904) The Secret Agent (1907) Under Western Eyes
Heart of Darkness is Conrads most widely read
novel. One reason is that it lends itself to wide
range of interpretations. It can be read as…..
1. As autobiography The account of a journey up
the Congo river that Conrad undertook in
the early 1890s. 2. As anticolonialism An
exposition of the brutality of Belgian
colonial rule. 3. As myth An ( Arthurian)
quest. 4. As classical or Norse mythology. 5.
As psychology or psychoanalysis A journey into
the Self. - and as a picture of the American
involvement in the Vietnam War
  • Conrad did, in fact, go up the Congo River in
  • Like Marlow in the novel, he got the job to go
    to the Congo through his aunt.
  • Like Marlow, he did not get along with the
  • Like Marlow, he was sent to pick up an agent
    Klein !!
  • Like Marlow, he fell ill and nearly died

Congo in the 1890s
Inner Station
Conrad about colonialism
  • The conquest of the earth, which mostly means
    the taking it away from those who have a
    different complexion or lightly flatter
    noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when
    you look into it too much.
  • a taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it
    all like the whiff from some corpse.
  • In an essay Conrad calls the colonial
    exploitation of the Congo, the vilest
    scramble for loot that ever dis- figured the
    history of human conscience…

  • In the King Arthur myths a knight in shining
    amour goes on a quest. Typically a quest for the
    holy grail.
  • The quest usually involves a number of trials.
    Some of those are physical, but the toughest
    tests are usually spiritual, a test of moral
    fibre or personal integrity.
  • The trials do not necessarily lead to wealth and
    fame, but equally often to insight and

Mythology, classical and Norse
There are a number of references to Greek and
Norse Mythology and to the Iliad, the Odyssey and
the Aeneid The women in the Brussels office
Fates or Nornes The Sepuchral city Descent
into the underworld ( Odyssey and Aeneid) The
river Styx, Lethe (Rivers in the
underworld) The dying Negroes The lifeless
shadows in the underworld The journey itself
the journeys of Odysseus and Aeneas
Christian Mythology
The novel has repeatedly been compared to
Dantes Divine Comedy. Dante also undertakes a
journey to the underworld, to the Christian
Hell. Other parallels are The river snake
temptation The dying Negroes souls in limbo The
Inner Station the inner sanctum of Hell, Inferno
Dante (1265-1321)with his Divina Commedia
Psychology, psychoanalysis
More than 20 years before Freud published his
tripartite division of the mind into Superego,
Ego and Id, Conrad seems to use similar ideas
the policeman (p. 85) your own innate
strength (p.85) ..he was hollow at the core
(97) powers of darkness (p. 85) But the
wilderness had found him out early… and the
whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating (p.
Apocalypse Now
  • Apocalypse Now is only loosely based on Heart of
  • However, the main plot and quite a few individual
    lines have been lifted directly from the novel.
  • Like the novel it is an delving into the
    darkness of mans heart.
  • Like the novel, the film wants to penetrate all
    the way to the reptile brain.
  • Where the novel may be called anticolonialist,
    the film may be seen as anti-war.
  • There is the same basic conflict of a
    technologically advanced culture attempting
    to impose its will on a less developed people.
  • If the novel questions the white mans
    burden, the film questions the right of one
    country to impose its political system on

The horror… the horror
Other parallels between Apocalypse Now and Heart
of Darkness
  • Same basic plot An man goes up a river in order
    to get another man who, in the process, takes on
    an ominous significance
  • and e.g…..
  • The helmsman is killed by a spear
  • Kurtz camp is in both versions a vision of hell
    (in the novel some of the natives wear horns-
    in the film we see them.)
  • Both Kurtzes are in opposition to their
  • Both Kurtzes are extremely gifted.
  • Kurtz voice plays a major role in both works.
    (Film His voice really put the hook in me.
    Novel The man presented himself as a voice.

Snake skeleton
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