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Heart of Darkness


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Title: Heart of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness
GRAHAM GREENE, Journey without Maps (1936)Liberia
  • 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.

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 (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.

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
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

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 his 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)
  • Uncle was an aristocrat
  • Cultural background was Western was taught
    primarily in French
  • In 1874, Conrad went to Marseilles, France, and
    joined the Merchant Navy.
  • Smuggling guns for the Spanish and a love affair
    led to a suicide attempt.
  • Conrad became a British merchant sailor (switched
    from the French navy) and eventually a master
    mariner and citizen in 1886. His ten years in the
    British Merchant Marine shaped most of his

Joseph Conrads Life
  • Wrote in a language that was not native to him
  • English was his fourth language
  • Taught himself

Joseph Conrads Life
  • Conrad traveled widely in the east.
  • After 15-20 years, Conrad rose from the lowest
    rank of to become captain
  • 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.

  • Joseph Conrad in response to the rumor that he
    hesitated between French and English when he
    started writing
  • English was for me neither a matter of choice
    nor adoptionthere was adoption but it was I who
    was adopted by the genius of the languageits
    very idiomshad a direct action on my temperament
    and fashioned my still plastic characters.

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

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

Heart of Darkness Background
  • After a long stint in the east had come to an
    end, Conrad 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

Conrads View
  • For Conrad, the world as we experience it is not
    a sort of place that can be reduced to a set of
    clear, explicit truths.
  • Its truthsthe truths of the psyche, of the human
    mind and soulare messy, vague, irrational,
    suggestive, and dark.

Conrads View
  • Conrads intention? to lead his readers to an
    experience of the heart of darkness,not to shed
    the light of reason on itbut to recreate his
    experience of darkness in our feelings, our
    sensibilities, our own dark and mysterious hearts.

About the Novel
  • Since its publication, Heart of Darkness has
    fascinated readers and critics, almost all of
    whom regard the novel as significant because of
    its use of ambiguity and (in Conrad's own words)
    "foggishness" to dramatize Marlow's perceptions
    of the horrors he encounters.

Key Facts
  • Full Title  Heart of Darkness
  • Author Joseph Conrad
  • Type of Work Novella (between a novel and a
    short story in length and scope)
  • Genre Symbolism, colonial literature, adventure
    tale, frame story, almost a romance in its
    insistence on heroism and the supernatural and
    its preference for the symbolic over the realistic

Key Facts
  • Time and Place Written England, 18981899
    inspired by Conrads journey to the Congo in
  • Date of First Publication Published in 1902 in
    the volume Youth A Narrative and Two Other
  • Narrator There are two narrators an anonymous
    passenger on a pleasure ship, who listens to
    Marlows story, and Marlow himself, a middle-aged
    ships captain.

Key Facts
  • Point of View The first narrator speaks in the
    first-person plural, on behalf of four other
    passengers who listen to Marlows tale. Marlow
    narrates his story in the first person,
    describing only what he witnesses and
    experiences, and provides his own commentary on
    the story.
  • Tone Ambivalent Marlow is disgusted at the
    brutality of the Company and horrified by Kurtzs
    degeneration, but he claims that any thinking man
    would be tempted into similar behavior.

Key Facts
  • Setting (time) Latter part of the nineteenth
    century, probably sometime between 1876 and 1892.
  • Setting (place) Opens on the Thames River
    outside London, where Marlow is telling the story
    that makes up Heart of Darkness. Events of the
    story take place in Brussels, at the Companys
    offices, and in the Congo, then a Belgian
  • Protagonist Charlie Marlow.

Key Facts
  • Major Conflict Both Marlow and Kurtz confront a
    conflict between their images of themselves as
    civilized Europeans and the temptation to
    abandon morality completely once they leave the
    context of European society.
  • Rising Action The brutality Marlow witnesses in
    the Companys employees, the rumors he hears that
    Kurtz is a remarkable man, and the numerous
    examples of Europeans breaking down mentally or
    physically in the environment of Africa.

Key Facts
  • Climax Marlows discovery, upon reaching the
    Inner Station, that Kurtz has completely
    abandoned European morals and norms of behavior.
  • Falling Action Marlows acceptance of
    responsibility for Kurtzs legacy, Marlows
    encounters with Company officials and Kurtzs
    family and friends, Marlows visit to Kurtzs
  • Themes The hypocrisy of imperialism, madness as
    a result of imperialism, the absurdity of evil.

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

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

Key Facts
  • Motifs Darkness (very seldom opposed by light),
    interiors vs. surfaces (kernel/shell,
    coast/inland, station/forest, etc.), ironic
    understatement, hyperbolic language, inability to
    find words to describe situation adequately,
    images of ridiculous waste, upriver versus
    downriver/toward and away from Kurtz/away from
    and back toward civilization (quest or journey

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?

Key Facts
  • Symbols Rivers, fog, women (Kurtzs Intended,
    his African mistress), French warship shelling
    forested coast, grove of death, severed heads on
    fence posts, Kurtzs Report, dead helmsman,
    maps, whited sepulchre of Brussels, knitting
    women in Company offices, man trying to fill
    bucket with hole in it.

Order in the Midst of ChaosHeart of Darknesss
  • Threes
  • Chapters
  • Marlow breaks off story 3 times
  • Stations
  • Women
  • Central Characters
  • Frame Narrative
  • Light and Dark
  • Transformation

(No Transcript)
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)

  • PowerPoint from Sandra Effinger
  • http//mseffie.com/assignments/heart_of_darkness/h
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