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Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad (8)

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a classic 19th century novel that explores the tragic clash of Europeans and Africans in the age of imperialism. The narrator is Charles Marlow, who signs on with a Belgian trading company as a riverboat captain. Marlow’s travels through the Congo reveal to him the cruelty and corruption inherent in the company’s stations, as he witnesses the ill treatment of the native laborers, and the moral degeneration of the Europeans, who strip the rich country of ivory. He meets with a general manager, whose casual brutality and inefficiency begin to symbolize the colonial enterprise to Marlow. But it is Marlow’s encounter with the infamous agent, Kurtz, who epitomizes all that is wrong with colonial Africa. The once-idealistic Kurtz has become the most brutal and self-serving of all, setting himself up as a god to the impoverished natives, and collecting the skulls of the disloyal. Heart of Darkness further distinguishes itself with its finale: Kurtz’s fevered death and his final epiphany of horror, one of the most famous and chilling literary scenes to date.

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