essay writing ideas

Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad


Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Joseph Conrad, a polish novelist. This novella centres partly on the personal experiences of Mr Conrad about his journey to Africa along the Congo River. Mr Conrad retells his story using the character of Marlow in the book. Marlow becomes disillusioned with the concept of imperialism on the African natives when he witnessed the harsh realities that Africans are subjected to as depicted by the inhuman treatment, forced labour and the cruelty and corruption carried out by the colonial rulers. Conrad was disillusioned and raised doubts about imperialism and racism. In Conrad's opinion, there's no difference between the African natives and the "civilised" whites back in London.

The Plot

Aboard a ship called Nellie which is anchored in river Thames are about five men on the Nellie including Marlow. Marlow narrates to the rest how he was appointed a captain of a steamboat for an ivory trading company. He narrates how he got employed – ostensibly with the help of his aunt who knew some influential people - by the Belgian company which deals in ivory on the Congo River.

When Marlow got to Africa and up Congo, he witnessed gross inefficiency and brutality at the company's stations. He saw how the natives were chained and forced to work to death and sometimes wasted. He considered this a sharp contrast to tenets of humanity and majestic lifestyles of the whites’ settlement. Marlow noticed how disorganised the company's station were.

At the company's station, Marlow encounters the company's chief accountant who tells him about Mr Kurtz who is a well-respected agent of the company and he brings in more ivory than any other agent. Afterwards, Marlow and a group depart for the central station where he meets the general manager of the station. The manager came across Marlow like a lazy, envious and a backbiting character. Marlow discovers that the steamboat he's supposed to captain has been wrecked and sunk two days earlier. The manager informs Marlow that they had tried to take the boat out of the river because of the news that Mr Kurtz was seriously ill. The manager and his brick-maker fear that Mr Kurtz is a threat to their positions so it takes several months before parts could arrive to repair the boat; this was deliberate.

Eventually the boat is repaired and Marlow and his entourage embark on the journey not without proper warning that they have to be careful of the natives. On the boat with Marlow were the pilgrims, the manager and a crew of cannibals. On the journey to inner station where Marlow is to meet Kurtz, they come to a hut where Marlow finds logs of wood and a note saying the words is for him and he should travel cautiously, the signature wasn't legible enough but Marlow was sure it wasn't that of Kurtz which the manager later confirms that the woods would have been left there by the Russian.

Eight miles before the inner station, they encounter a thick fog which could not permit them to move on. While waiting for the fog to clear off they hear voices of the African natives, quite frightened but Marlow refuses to navigate the steamer forward for fear of grounding it to a halt and reasons that the native cannibals would not attack. After the fog has waned off and they proceeded on with the journey they are suddenly being attacked with a barrage of arrows from natives and the native helmsman is killed in the process. Marlow rushed into the pilot house and repeatedly sounded the steam whistle which scared the natives away. Marlow also thinks Kurtz would have been dead already and he had a feeling of disappointment that he will never get to meet the man Kurtz.

Not long after the after the attack, Marlow and his entourage arrive at the inner station where they were welcomed by a Russian and the Russian informs them it was indeed him who put the woods at the hut. The Russian assures them that all is alright and Mr Kurtz is still alive. From the conversation with the Russian, Marlow learns of how the natives now come to worship Kurtz and he's well respected. Marlow is intimated of the brutal methods and raids Kurtz operates in getting his ivory, and the severed heads on the fence confirms the brutal method.

Kurtz is brought into the steamboat on a stretcher while a young African lady looks on from the shores which is apparently evident that she's a lover to Kurtz. While in the steamer, Kurtz and the manager have a heated argument, Kurtz accuses the manager of coming for his ivory rather than to help him. The Russian also reveals to Marlow that the attack on the boat was orchestrated by Kurtz so that the manager would think he is dead. Kurtz disappears in the night but was found by Marlow. Kurtz was crawling to where the natives were to call for help but before he could get there, he was intercepted by Marlow who convinces him to return back to boat and Kurtz had confidence in Marlow which made him entrust some documents and a picture in the care of Marlow. Not quite long after Kurtz passes on.

After the death of Kurtz, Marlow himself falls sick but eventually heals and returns back to Europe. He finds the fiancée of Kurtz who was still mourning the death of Kurtz. She goes on a long narrative extolling the virtues and qualities of Kurtz which after she asks Marlow what his last words were. Marlow could see her expectations so he couldn't come to tell her the truth so he lied to her that Kurtz last words were her name when in truth, his last word was "horror!"