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Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness Motifs Darkness Primitive Impulses (Kurtz, previous captain, etc.) Cruelty of Man (Kurtz and Company) Immorality/Amorality (Kurtz) Lies/Hypocrisy ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Heart of Darkness

(No Transcript)
Heart of Darkness
GRAHAM GREENE, Journey without Maps (1936)
  • I thought for some reason even then of Africa,
    not a particular place, but a shape, a
    strangeness, a wanting to know. The unconscious
    mind is often sentimental I have written a
    shape, and the shape, of course, is roughly that
    of the human heart.
  • Africa will always be the Africa of the Victorian
    atlas, the blank unexplored continent the shape
    of the human heart.

Factual/Historical Viewpoint
  • The Congo River was discovered by Europeans in
  • No one traveled more than 200 miles upstream
  • Is 1,600 miles long and only impassable to water
    traffic between two places, creating a
    two-hundred mile overland trip
  • Matadi (the CompanyStation)
  • Kinshasa (the Central Station)

History of the Congo
  • 1878 King Leopold II of Belgium asked explorer
    Henry Morton Stanley to set up a Belgian colony
    in the Congo
  • Wanted to end slavery and civilize the natives
  • Actually interested in more material benefits
  • 1885 Congress of Berlin forms Congo Free State
  • This was ruled by Leopold II alone
  • The Congress of Berlin is referred to in the book
    as the International Society for the Suppression
    of Savage Customs.
  • Leopold never even visited the Congo. He set up
    the Company to run it for him.

Africa and Imperialism
1879-1885 Henry Morton Stanley explores the
region for Leopold II of Belgium 1890 Conrads
expedition to the Congo (Before the Congo I was
a mere animal)
Colonial Africa, circa 1892
Democratic Republic of the Congo
1908 Belgian Congo 1960 Independence 1964
Peoples Republic of the Congo 1971 Republic of
Zaire 1997 Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo (1997)
The name of this African nation derives from a
people known as the BaKongo, first rendered as
Congo in Portuguese chronicles of exploration
in 1482. In their language, the 2,900-mile-long
Congo River is called nzadi, the river that
swallows all rivers.
King Leopold II (reigned 1865 1909)
Belgian exploitation of the Congo initially
focused on the rubber industry.
King Leopold and the Congo
  • Belgium, as a small country, did not possess
    numerous overseas colonies, unlike its
    neighbours, Holland, France, Germany, and Great
    Britain, but shared their imperial ambitions.
    Leopold persuaded other European powers at the
    Berlin Conference of 1884-85 to give him personal
    possession of the Congo.
  • In 1876 he organized an international association
    as a front for his private plan to develop
    central Africa.
  • Leopold used the Congo as a huge money-making
    resource, committing human rights violations in
    the process, as he built public works projects in
    Belgium with the money he accrued.

Belgiums Stranglehold on the Congo
5-8 Million Victims (50 of Population)
It is blood-curdling to see them (the soldiers)
returning with the hands of the slain, and to
find the hands of young children amongst the
bigger ones evidencing their bravery...The rubber
from this district has cost hundreds of lives,
and the scenes I have witnessed, while unable to
help the oppressed, have been almost enough to
make me wish I were dead... This rubber traffic
is steeped in blood, and if the natives were to
rise and sweep every white person on the Upper
Congo into eternity, there would still be left a
fearful balance to their credit. -- Belgian
White King, Red Rubber, Black Death
  • Countries such as France, the Netherlands, and
    Great Britain that acquired large empires
    exploited both land and people. However
  • Some measures to protect the rights of overseas
    subjects were introduced.
  • Rights of women and men to vote.
  • Protection against industrial exploitation was
    making child labour illegal and improving
    employment conditions.
  • Some of these rights were followed in the African
    colonies..but NOT BY LEOPOLD II
  • Leopold had to give up the Congo to Belgium in
    1908 as a result of the international campaign
    exposing Leopolds activities in the Congo.

King Leopolds Ghost
  • Novel by Adam Hochschild written in 1998
  • Tells the horrific story of King Leopolds
    colonial rule over a country and its native
  • Based on the true story of the colonial
  • King Leopold II, never set foot in the Congo, but
    managed to ruin a countryhis ghost remains today
    in memories of the Congolese.

The Explorer Stanleys Role
  • H. M. Stanley, a journalist who explored the
    Congo on an expedition financed by King Leopold
    of Belgium.
  • Stanley greatly aided his backer in gaining a
    firm foothold in what was to become the Belgian
    Congo (later Zaire), now the Democratic Republic
    of Congo.
  • King Leopold II never set foot in Africa.

The White Mans Burden
  • King Leopold found the Congocursed by
    cannibalism, savagery, and despair and he has
    been trying with patience, which I can never
    sufficiently admire, to relieve it of its
    horrors, rescue it from its oppressors, and save
    it from perdition. --H.M. Stanley

The idea that Europeans must carry the burden of
civilizing Africa.
Different Motives of Imperialism
  • Some Westerners felt it was their duty to
    civilize the savage inhabitant of colonial
    lands in order to make them more modern and
    European. The English writer Rudyard Kipling
    displayed such an attitude in 1899 with a poem
    entitle The White Mans Burden.

Take up the White Mans burden-- Send forth the
best ye breed-- Go bind your sons to exile To
serve your captives need To wait in heavy
harness, On fluttered folk and wild-- Your
new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and
The White Mans Burden?
The first step toward lightening the White Mans
Burden is through teaching the virtues of
Pears Soap is a potent factor in brightening the
dark corners of the earth as civilization
advances, while amongst the cultured of all
nations, it holds the highest place-it is the
ideal toilet soap.
Ivory and the White Mans Burden
  • Most Europeans in the 1890s felt that the African
    peoples needed exposure to European culture and
    technology to become more evolved.
  • This responsibility was known as the white mans
    burden and the fervor to bring Christianity and
    commerce to Africa grew.
  • In return for these benefits, the Europeans
    extracted HUGE amounts of ivory.

Ivory, cont.
  • Uses of ivory in the 1890s
  • Jewelry and other decorative items
  • Piano keys
  • Billiard balls
  • From 1888 to 1892, the amount of ivory exported
    from the Congo rose from 13,000 pounds to more
    than a quarter million pounds.
  • 1892 Leopold declares all natural resources in
    the Congo are his sole property
  • This gave the Belgians free reign to take
    whatever they wanted however they wished.
  • Trade expands, new stations are established
    farther and farther away

The Results of Ivory Fever
  • Documented atrocities committed by the Belgian
    ivory traders include the severing of hands and
  • Reports of this, combined with Conrads portrayal
    of the system in Heart of Darkness, led to an
    international protest movement against Belgiums
    presence in Africa
  • Leopold outlawed these practices, but his decree
    had little effect
  • Belgian parliament finally took control away from
    the king
  • Belgium did not grant independence to the Congo
    until 1960

Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902)
Uncle Sam The Colossus of the Pacific (A
The Colossus of Rhodes
Joseph Conrads Life
  • Born Josef Teodore Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski,
    inPodolia, Ukraine, 3 December1857.
  • Conrads father and mother,Apollo and Ewa, were
    politicalactivists. They were imprisoned 7
    months and eventually deported to Vologda.
  • Apollo introduced him son to the work of Dickens,
    Fenimore Cooper and Captain Marryat in Polish and
    French translations.

Joseph Conrads Life
  • His father died of tuberculosis and his funeral
    was attended by a thousand admirers
  • Conrad was raised by his uncle attended school
    (he was disobedient)
  • In 1874, Conrad went to Marseilles, France, and
    joined the Merchant Navy.
  • Gun running for the Spanish and a love affair led
    to a suicide attempt.
  • Conrad became a British merchant sailor and
    eventually a master mariner and citizen in 1886.
    His ten years in the British Merchant Marine
    shaped most of his stories.

Joseph Conrads Life
  • Conrad traveled widely in the east.
  • He took on a stint as a steamer captain (1890) in
    the Congo, but became ill within three months and
    had to leave.
  • Conrad retired from sailing and took up writing
    full time.
  • Died of a heart attack in 1924.
  • Buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

Heart of Darkness
  • First published as a serial in Londons Blackwood
    Magazine in 1899
  • First unified publication in1902
  • Considered by many to be the finest short novel
    ever written in English
  • Bridges the Victorian and Modern literary periods
  • Modern criticism sharply divided over merit due
    to racist/imperialist themes

Heart of Darkness Background
  • After a long stint in the east had come to an
    end, he was having trouble finding a new
  • With the help of a relative in Brussels he got
    the position as captain of a steamer for a
    Belgian trading company.
  • Conrad had always dreamed of sailing the Congo
  • He had to leave early for the job, as the
    previous captain was killed in a trivial quarrel

Heart of Darkness Background
  • Conrad saw some of the most shocking and depraved
    examples of human corruption hed ever witnessed.
    He was disgusted by the ill treatment of the
    natives, the scrabble for loot, the terrible heat
    and the lack of water.
  • He saw human skeletons of bodies left to rot -
    many were men from the chain gangs building the
  • He found his ship was damaged.
  • Dysentary was rampant as was malaria Conrad had
    to terminate his contract due to illness and
    never fully recovered

Heart of Darkness Narrative Structure
  • Framed Narrative
  • Narrator begins
  • Marlow takes over
  • Narrator breaks in occasionally
  • Marlow is Conrads alter-ego, he shows up in some
    of Conrads other works including Youth A
    Narrative and Lord Jim
  • Marlow recounts his tale while he is on a small
    vessel on the Thames with some drinking buddies
    who are ex-merchant seamen. As he recounts his
    story the group sits in an all-encompassing

Narrative Structure of Heart of Darkness
Contrasts in Heart of Darkness
  • Light vs. Dark
  • Heavy vs. Light
  • Inferiority vs. Superiority
  • Civil vs. Savage
  • Interior vs. Exterior
  • Illusion vs. Truth
  • Misogyny vs. Misanthropy
  • Insanity vs. Sanity
  • Racism vs. Anti-racism
  • Imperialism vs. Insularity
  • Evil
  • What makes well-intentioned people do bad things?

Heart of Darkness Motifs
  • Darkness
  • Primitive Impulses (Kurtz, previous captain,
  • Cruelty of Man (Kurtz and Company)
  • Immorality/Amorality (Kurtz)
  • Lies/Hypocrisy (Marlow chooses Kurtzs evil
    versus Companys hypocritical evil)
  • Imperialization/Colonization (Belgian Company)
  • Greed / Exploitation of People
  • Power Corrupts
  • Savage vs. Civil

Heart of Darkness Motifs
  • Role of Women
  • Civilization exploitive of women
  • Civilization as a binding and self-perpetuating
  • Physical connected to Psychological
  • Barriers (fog, thick forest)
  • Rivers (connection to past, parallels time and

(No Transcript)
Varied Interpretations
  • Some feel the novel offers a scathing attack on
    colonialist ideology, others feel the novel
    celebrates and defends colonialization and
  • Some see Kurtz as the embodiment of all the evil
    and horror of capitalist society.
  • Others view it as a portrayal of one mans
    journey into the primitive unconscious where one
    must confront ones own inner darkness.
  • Still others see it as a modern journey quest,
    perhaps with an anti-hero rather than a hero.

Criticism Early and Modern
  • Early
  • Hailed as a portrayal of the demoralizing effect
    life in the African wilderness supposedly had on
    European men
  • Praised as a study of the collapse of the white
    mans morality when he is released from the
    restraints of European law and order
  • Modern
  • Criticized for the blatantly racist attitudes it
  • Some believe Conrad was simply reflecting the
    attitudes held common at the time
  • Others believe he may have been holding the ideas
    up for scorn and ridicule

Victorian and Modern Literature
  • Victorian (1837 1901)
  • Traditional subject matter, form, and style
  • Deals with issues of the day, including
  • Social, economic, religious, and intellectual
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Class tensions, early feminist movement,
    pressures for social and political reform
  • Impact of Darwins theories on evolution
  • Modern (post WWI WWII)
  • Authors experiment with subject matter, form, and
  • Deals with issues of the day, including
  • Horrors of WWI
  • Massive loss of life
  • Loss of faith
  • Expanding technology and science
  • Also encompassed/is related to Postmodernism

Review of Criticism
  • Paul OPrey It is an irony that the failures
    of Marlow and Kurtz are paralleled by a
    corresponding failure of Conrads
    techniquebrilliant though it isas the vast
    abstract darkness he imagines exceeds his
    capacity to analyze and dramatize it, and the
    very inability to portray the storys central
    subject, the unimaginable, the impenetratable
    (evil, emptiness, mystery or whatever) becomes a
    central theme.
  • James Guetti complains that Marlow never gets
    below the surface, and is denied the final
    self-knowledge that Kurtz had.?

Review of Criticism
  • Conrad, writing in 1922, responds to similar
    criticism Explicitness, my dear fellow, is
    fatal to the glamour of all artistic work,
    robbing it of all suggestiveness, destroying all
    illusion. You seem to believe in literalness and
    explicitness, in facts and in expression. Yet
    nothing is more clear than the utter
    insignificance of explicit statement and also its
    power to call attention away from things that
    matter in the region of art.

Review of Criticism
Marlowe, the narrator, describes how difficult
conveying a story is Do you see the story? Do
you see anything? It seems to me I am trying to
tell you a dreammaking a vain attempt, because
no relation of a dream can convey the
dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity,
surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of
struggling revolt, that notion of being captured
by the incredible, which is the very essence of
dream . . .No, it is impossible it is impossible
to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch
of ones existencethat which makes its truth,
its meaningits subtle and penetrating essence.
It is impossible. We live, as we dreamalone.
Review of Criticism
  • Marxist You can see Heart of Darkness as a
    depiction of, and an attack upon, colonialism in
    general, and, more specifically, the particularly
    brutal form colonialism took in the Belgian
  • the mistreatment of the Africans
  • the greed of the so-called pilgrims
  • the broken idealism of Kurtz
  • the French man-of-war lobbing shells into the
  • the grove of death upon which Marlow stumbles
  • the little note that Kurtz appends to his
    noble-minded essay on The Suppression of Savage
  • the importance of ivory to the economics of the

Review of Criticism
  • Sociological/Cultural Conrad was also apparently
    interested in a more general sociological
    investigation of those who conquer and those who
    are conquered, and the complicated interplay
    between them.
  • Marlows invocation of the Roman conquest of
  • cultural ambiguity of those Africans who have
    taken on some of the ways of their Europeans
  • the ways in which the wilderness tends to strip
    away the civility of the Europeans and brutalize
  • Conrad is not impartial and scientifically
    detached from these things, and he even has a bit
    of fun with such impartiality in his depiction
    the doctor who tells Marlow that people who go
    out to Africa become scientifically

Review of Criticism
  • Psychological/Psychoanalytical Conrad goes out
    of his way to suggest that in some sense Marlows
    journey is like a dream or a return to our
    primitive pastan exploration of the dark
    recesses of the human mind.
  • Apparent similarities to the psychological
    theories of Sigmund Freud in its suggestion that
    dreams are a clue to hidden areas of the mind
  • we are all primitive brutes and savages, capable
    of the most appalling wishes and the most
    horrifying impulses (the Id)
  • we can make sense of the urge Marlow feels to
    leave his boat and join the natives for a savage
    whoop and holler
  • notice that Marlow keeps insisting that Kurtz is
    a voicea voice who seems to speak to him out of
    the heart of the immense darkness

Review of Criticism
  • Religious Heart of Darkness as an examination of
    various aspects of religion and religious
  • examine the way Conrad plays with the concept of
    pilgrims and pilgrimages
  • the role of Christian missionary concepts in the
    justifications of the colonialists
  • the dark way in which Kurtz fulfills his own
    messianic ambitions by setting himself up as one
    of the local gods

Review of Criticism
  • Moral-Philosophical Heart of Darkness is
    preoccupied with general questions about the
    nature of good and evil, or civilization and
  • What saves Marlow from becoming evil?
  • Is Kurtz more or less evil than the pilgrims?
  • Why does Marlow associate lies with mortality?

Review of Criticism
  • Formalist Focus on the literary patterns and
    structures inherent in Heart of Darkness
  • Threes There are three parts to the story, three
    breaks in the story (1 in pt. 1 and 2 in pt. 2),
    and three central characters the outside
    narrator, Marlow and Kurtz
  • Contrasting images (dark and light, open and
  • Center to periphery Kurtz-gtMarlow-gtOutside
    Narrator-gtthe reader
  • Are the answers to be found in the center or on
    the periphery?

Review of Criticism
  • Modernism Heart of Darkness published in the
    Late Victorian Era exhibits mostly modern traits
  • a distrust of abstractions as a way of
    delineating truth
  • an interest in an exploration of the
  • a belief in art as a separate and somewhat
    privileged kind of human experience
  • a desire for transcendence mingled with a feeling
    that transcendence cannot be achieved
  • an awareness of and interest in primitiveness and
    savagery as the condition upon which civilization
    is built
  • a skepticism and a sense that multiplicity,
    ambiguity, and ironyin life and in artare the
    necessary responses of the intelligent mind to
    the human condition.

Movie Versions of the Book
Apocalypse Now
  • Apocalypse Now is a film directed by Francis Ford
    Coppola starring Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall and
    Marlon Brando
  • This film was based on Conrads Heart of
  • Coppola takes the story to Vietnam. Captain
    Willard (Marlow) is sent on a mission to kill
    Colonel Kurtz who has gone renegade

Circle of Influence
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • William Faulkner
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Carlos Fuentes
  • George Orwell
  • Saul Bellow
  • Eugene ONeill
  • Graham Greene

Joseph Conrads Other Works
  • Almayers Folly (1895)
  • The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897)
  • Lord Jim (1900)
  • Heart of Darkness (1902)
  • Typhoon (1902)
  • Nostromo (1904)
  • The Secret Sharer (1907)
  • Under Western Eyes (1910)
  • Chance (1914)
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