Heart Of DarknessSetting: The author placed the novel’s setting on a stream boat on a river near London. The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest (1). Then the narrator tells his story in a flash back which he tells about Marlow’s experiences in the African jungle specifically on the Congo river. The majority of the story is told in flash back about the voyage in to the heart of darkness.
Characters: The central character is obviously Marlow. He is a man of modesty and courage, which are not stereotypical traits of a sailor which he has become. The book focuses morally on his personal character and then describes to the norm of the rest of the world. The character that Marlow becomes obsessed with later is Kurtz. He is a mysterious dark man who made money trading ivory down the Congo river. ‘In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.’ On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent (85) here Marlow is talking to a captain and first finds out about Kurtz. Later he finds out that he transports ivory. Among other insignificant characters on the boat deck of the Nellli were a lawyer and an accountant. Their role seemed as only to be and audience to Marlow and the other unnamed narrator.
Point of View: The point of view is from Marlow, but the tale is told from a nameless observer. This is the reason why the novel is in third person, and Marlow’s is refereed to also in third person. Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol. (69) Also the previous quote shows a honest virtue by being compared to as someone to look up to.
Action: The story begins with Marlow and four other characters on a boat in the Thames river. The story line then goes into a flashback, and tells Marlow’s story of his adventures in the Congo. He has a connection to become a steam boat captain, but when he arrives at the first station he finds out that his boat is at the bottom of the river. Also Marlow has to rise the boat and repair it with inferior tools. That, and the repairs when I brought the pieces to the station, took some months (79). For it to take so long it must have been second rate help and labor. Marlow secretly hears about a man names Kurtz and become interested in him. He wanted to know about how he became such a good successful ivory trader. One day the boat was traveling down the river and they were attacked by natives. [H]e,[the helmsman] became instantly the prey of an abject funk, and would let that cripple of a steamboat (106). Finally they arrive at the inner station, where a Russian speaks of the ! illness that Kurtz has. Then the sicken Kurtz is brought on the boat. The Russian suggest that Kurtz be taken away from the village. Kurtz had strange taste in personal wants. Marlow suggests that Kurtz was warped by the jungle and would account for the heads on top of post, his lust for blood, and the raiding parties on other villages. The Russian then takes a rifle and disappears into the jungle. Now that the Russian is gone, the boat starts its way back up the river. The natives gather and the men open fire, after Marlow blows the whistle to scare them off. Kurtz later talks to Marlow and confides in him. Kurtz believes he will be dying soon. Marlow attempts to soothe him, but he is unchanged. That night Kurtz dies. Suddenly the manager’s boy put his insolent black head in the doorway, and said in a tone of scathing contempt: ‘Mistah Kurtz — he dead.’ Feeling the way Marlow did he went to Kurtz’s wife to be and told her the news. She was astonished and as Marlow said his last words, the story went back to the boat and Marlow was meditating like a Buddha. Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha (157).
Style: The Heart of Darkness looks deeply into the mist of man’s soul. Conrad’s depth suggests that he was telling society about today’s problems with peoples true feelings. Furthermore Conrad makes to opposing main forces, deception and honesty. Through the application of structure, tone, and symbolism Conrad explorers the dark interior of men. Heart of Darkness was divided into three sections. Each time a section started the scene was a boat deck. It was written as a narrative inside a narrative and the ‘jumping’ around from decade to decade and places reminds the reader that it still is a fiction novel. After [Marlow] was silent for a while (75) the novel is sharply interrupted and suddenly reverts back to the boat deck in the Thames river. The structure also added suspense to the novel by leaving the reader hanging at certain points then later coming back and explaining how they fit into the story later on. The dynamic tone of the entire book was extremely pessimistic as well as dark and cold. Dark human shapes could be made out in the distance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border of the forest (136). This quote clearly states the dark style of Conrad’s writing. More darkness is brought out in the first meeting of Kurtz and Marlow. Fence post spears with human heads rest in the yard [of Kurtz] (153).Kurtz passion for gore and other deviating tendencies reflects that no one can escape the savagery of the jungle. Symbolism plays a large role in the novel by placing two powerful forces against each other. The main symbols were Marlow and Kurtz who was a maverick and a savage beast that lived in the domain of the purely evil jungle. Marlow, then, represented a pure civilized soul who has not been drawn to the savagery by a dark, alienated jungle. Kurtz is also white man’s failure in Africa by not comforming to the standard believes and protocol. He did not tame the native. Another reoccurring term was the symbol of the pilgrim. A pilgrim was a native worker or a low life European who sailed on the African rivers. as the pilgrims were unloading the cargo, Marlow watched the river…(128). The name Kurtz has symbolic meaning in the German language as meaning non restrictive. Symbolism was the main aspect of the underlying meaning of the novel. Conrad motivation came from his personal experience of being a boat captain in Africa and seeing the horrors of it. But as he stayed they longer he realized the savage beast was present all over the so called civilized world.
Theme: The darkness, the mysterious unknown, and opposing all progress were the major themes in the novel. According to Conrad, the will to give into the uncivilized man does not reside in Kurtz alone. Every man has inside himself a heart of darkness, but is drowned in a bath of light shed by the advent of civilization.