Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Students often find this novella really tough and the story asks you to grapple with some fairly challenging issues, so before we get started you may want to check out the YouTube clip at the following link that provides you with a summary of the storyline - its only 10mins long and really quite cool to watch!

For a brief bio on Joseph Conrad's life, you can watch:

If you are keen to listen to the Heart of Darkness being read then you can use this link to access the MP3 downloads: (they are on a free website)

Heart Of Darkness – Quotations to take you through the story

Step 1: Using the novella (either version), look up the following extracts and understand how they connect to the story as a whole.
  1. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much… (p.8)
  2. The voice of the surf hear now and then was a positive pleasure… They wanted no excuse fro being there (p. 18 / 19)
  3. In the empty immensity of earth, sky and water, there she (a French warship) was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent…(p. 19)
  4. The devoted band called itself the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, and I believe they were sworn to secrecy. Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers…(p. 44)
  5. We will not be free from their unfair competition till one of these fellows is hanged for an example, he said… “Certainly, “grunted the other…”Why not? Anything, anything can be done in this country” (p. 47)
  6. Fine fellows – cannibals – in their place. They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them…(p. 50)
  7. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity – like yours the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough, but if you were man enough…(p. 52)
  8. Restraint! What possible restraint?.. Don’t you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment… (p. 61)
  9. The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out pre-eminently… was his ability to talk, his words – the gift of expression…(p. 69)
  10. Rebels! What would be the next definition I was to hear? There had been enemies, criminals, workers – and these were rebels. Those rebellious heads looked very subdued to me on their sticks…(p. 86)
  11. There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound that man! He had kicked the very earth to pieces… (p. 98)
Step 2:
Once you have found these extracts and made a note of them you need to consider each one in context of the story as a whole. Can you find “clues” in these extracts that speak of the themes we have already discussed in relation to this novella?
Step 3:
You may also wish to consider the following question: “What was Marlow’s attitude to the Congolese people” – you should look at the story as a whole and remember Marlow’s background / upbringing when you discuss this question.
Step 4:
Finally, I believe it would be worth your while to look a little closer at the concept that Marlow & Kurtz are actually (on a symbolic level) 2 halves of the same person:
Marlow, being a prime example of a well-mannered, highly cultured gentleman – a product of Colonialism if you will. While Kurtz represents the other half of Marlow’s psyche - the result of shrugging off the “restraints” imposed on men raised in a civilized culture.
Look again at the quote from page 98 where Marlow suggests that Kurtz had “kicked himself loose of the earth”.
Could Marlow then be the “ego” while Kurtz is the ID?