Question: What is a hedonistic lifestyle and how does this term relate to the book?

· A Hedonistic lifestyleis one driven or motivated by self-pleasure. In other words you live only to satisfy your own needs and wants with little or no regard for consequences (or other people). It is a self-indulgent life style – we said that to a degree, Kurtz lived in this manner; he had established himself as a demi-god & chief, he had a total disregard for rules, had taken a Congolese woman as his lover and was busy building his personal empire – living absolutely as he pleased

Question: What is the quote about Kurtz 'kicking himself free of the earth' actually mean?

· To “kick yourself free of the earth” implies that Kurtz has totally shrugged off all the rules and regulations, models of behaviour that bind the average human being to the earth – those behaviours that keep us grounded, in control and ‘civilized’. Kurtz had kicked himself free of these limitations, imposed by acceptable norms of behaviour, (the type of norms that Marlow lives by) and was now living in defiance of anyone who told him what he could and could not do. By using the words “Kicked himself free”, we are lead to understand that Marlow views this with a measure of real admiration; this behaviour that is almost in contradiction to the rues of nature, much like it would be to literally kick yourself free of the earth and defy gravity.

Question: What does the quote "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" actually mean?

· Absolute power corrupts absolutely – this is not a quote from the book, but rather a well-known expression. It basically means that if you have the power to do whatever you want to do, take whatever you want to take and never have to deal with the consequences (or someone telling you that you can’t) then the inevitable consequence is corruption (moral corruption and mental corruption). Living with absolute power implies that you are above the rules that govern other people – if there are no rules that can guide (or limit) your behaviour it will result in you becoming totally corrupt. If you think of how Kurtz was living his life in the Congo – it would be very easy to suggest that his life style had lead to the total corruption of his morals, values, mental state etc.


Question: What are the Id and the Ego and how does this relate to Heart of Darkness?

· The ID and the Ego – these are the two aspects of the human psyche that control our behaviour – the one regulates how we behave, it keeps our actions in check and allows us to function in civilized society. The other is associated with our more primal instincts – the more ‘primitive’ aspect of our humanity – the part of us that is concerned with survival and basic needs like food, sex, shelter etc. How this relates to the novella is that Marlow, who is represented as a typical civilized gentleman, is clearly governed by his ego (the structured, organized side of his persona) while, it seems Kurtz has allowed his Id to become dominant. Some critics argue that Marlow and Kurtz could be seen (symbolically) as one person each displaying a part of the other’s character – separate, yet together in the telling of this story. Kurtz was once described as the ultimate cultivated representation of civil society and we see how Marlow gradually feels more and more drawn to the primitive undercurrent of the jungle, the drumming, the dancing the ‘savages’ as he refers to the Congolese. Both men are defined by the Id and the Ego, both are capable of keeping the id suppressed by the ego – one of them has chosen to “kick himself free” of this control, the other seems to be discovering that he may be capable of the same given the right circumstances


Question: What does the phrase "The horror, the horror" mean?

· The Horror, the horror– this has never been perfectly explained or defined and Conrad did this intentionally so that we would be having this debate years after the book was written. At different times since the book was published, this phrase has been interpreted in a dozen different ways. Some feel Kurtz was finally realizing that the life he had been living in the jungle was evil and full of horror. Others argue that for him the thought of being forced to return to civilization was a “horror” he could not live with. Some think he is speaking about the horrific things the colonizers had done to the Congo and its people and yet others will say that he was afraid of dying and leaving this life. I think the point is that we are encouraged to debate those words, how we see them, what they potentially mean to us and how we interpret the character of Kurtz – evil and corrupt or truly liberated and free?


Question: Can you give me some help with writing an introduction for a Heart of Darkness essay?

· Introductions – naturally you will have to modify your introduction to suit the direction your essay will take based on the topic. Here is an example that you can modify…

Heart of Darkness is set in a time when Europe was experiencing the height of Imperialism. The colonisation of Africa was not only seen as a way of increasing the spread of the Imperialist kingdom, but also as a noble process of bringing salvation to the ‘savages’ that lived within its dark and sinister boundaries. Marlow was a product of this colonial mind-set; he had a strong faith in the ideals of colonialism and all it promised to achieve. It was with these idealistic notions about the Congo, and its primitive people, that he embarked on a life-changing journey down the Congo River in search of the elusive Mr. Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz who was himself a highly respected member of The Company, but who was rumoured to have been corrupted by the evils of the Congo jungle and who had subsequently ceased all contact with the outside world.


If any of you have other questions or would like to add to the above, please feel free to get in touch...