The Heart of Darkness

By: Kayla, Zac, Kelsi, Shalisa, Octavia

The Heart of Darkness Essay - Kayla Baker


“The bewitching darkness had driven Kurtz mad. It had lulled him into a fantasy believing himself an omnipotent power, supreme ruler of this world.” Marlow’s realization of what happened to Kurtz helped shape his beliefs throughout the novel. In the beginning of the story, Marlow was quite indifferent to what the Europeans were doing to the natives. “However, the deeper he penetrated into the somber stillness of the wilderness, he could not escape the realization of his vulnerability.” Marlow knew that if he did not guard his heart from the jungle, he would lose his soul to the darkness. What they were doing was not right. Conrad portrays how cruelly the Europeans treated the native Africans during Colonization and the dehumanization that occurred.The enigma of Kurtz started to fade as Marlow saw him for who he really was: a mad man. In the “Heart of Darkness”, written by Joseph Conrad, Marlow’s journey teaches him the truth about humanity and the darkness in all mankind.

Marlow realized the truth about humanity when he saw how the natives were treated by the Europeans. When Marlow first arrived in Africa, he saw the somber skeletons of the natives as they moved around the camps.” I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on their neck and were all connected together with a chain.” Marlow was appalled by the despair he saw.“Upon arriving at his destination he was disheartened by the actions of his brethren, by their “conquest of the earth”. Marlow was stranded in the jungle for a while because his boat was damaged. He started to see the true behavior of his fellow men. The natives were starved and left for dead. Marlow describes one scene where he sees a famine stricken native lapping up water from the river like a dog. However, the Europeans lived in the wealthiest conditions. When Marlow first saw Kurtz, he suprised by the way he was dressed. He was respectably presented in contrast to the people who surrounded him. The Africans experienced terrible conditions and poverty. Another instance where cruelty against Africans was evident was when Marlow was conversing with Kurtz and a native groaned in pain. “One comes to hate those savages-hate them to death.” Despite the love and respect the natives had for Kurtz, he seemed to loathe them greatly. There was a distinct amount of racism in the novel. Before Marlow left on his journey, a doctor measured his head. It was the thought that the civilized European man’s crania was of a different proportion to the savage African’s crania. This action seemed to validate the European’s cruel treatment of the Africans because of their belief that they were the dominant or superior race. Marlow describes a few Europeans in distaste as they shoot the natives for “fun”. It was like a game to them. The African’s lives were not valued in the eyes of the Europeans so they shot them like animals. The entire wave of brown people scattered as the gunshots were fired at them. A few were hit and created puddles of blood as the other natives ran to safety.“Contemptuous of their beliefs and brutal behavior.” Marlow saw the natives as human beings. He saw how insignificant and shallow the desires of the Europeans were. “Many had set out to conquer it (the jungle), dreaming of creating splendrous empires; others had embarked on a quest to extract riches, fame, and glory.” The Europeans were willing to do all of this at the expense of the natives. How far is man willing to go to get what he wants? Is he willing to sacrifice the lives and well being of others for selfish gain ? Well this answer is evident throughout most of Marlow’s journey. “I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but by all the stars ! These were strong, lusty, red eyed devils that swayed and drove men-men I tell you.” Marlow realized the horror of the situation. He saw that the Europeans were taking pleasure in oppressing the natives. “The horror!, The horror!” was evident in the story. It was on his death bed that Kurtz realized what he had done. What is the true meaning of humanity ? The native’s screams were real screams of terror and pain. They were actual human beings but were exempt from basic human rights. Ever since the beginning of time, people have oppressed each other for power, glory, and riches. Marlow realized how vain people can be for the sake of “humanity” and “civilization”. The Europeans proved to be more savage than the natives they were trying to civilize. Why would anyone treat a group of people this way just because they were different. People ostracize others for being different and tend to convert them because they believe that their way of life is right. Just because a person is different than another, does not make them uneducated, savages, or uncivilized. Marlow realized that humanity was not a homogenous society in which people think, look, and speak the same language. Humanity is in the way we treat one another and how we respect other’s differences. He learned to appreciate the differences of the Africans. “Congo is splendid--like it’s people it has a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement.”He even described how beautiful Kurtz’s African mistress was. “She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed clothes...a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman.” Diversity can be a great thing and it does not threaten humanity or its moral concepts. Marlow saw the “white” souls of the black people and the “black” souls of the white people. However, the natives were treated as if they had no soul at all.

Marlow realized that there is darkness in everyone. No one is exempt from the temptation of evil. Not even Marlow could resist the call of the jungle. “ I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia and lose myself in the glories of exploration.” In the beginning of the novel, Marlow hated the idea of telling a lie. In many ways this helped deteriorate the impenetrable image of Kurtz when he lied in front of him. In the middle of the story, he states “You know I hate and detest and can’t bear a lie.”Marlow lost all respect for Kurtz. This correlates with how the western world is. In many ways, western society contradicts its own teachings of civilization and equality by the way it treats minorities. This disappointed Marlow because he had heard about how great Kurtz was and what he had done to “civilize” Africa. He insisted Kurtz had a “hollow core” with no moral standards whatsoever. This is similar to man. We have such strong beliefs that tend to contradict our practices. The imperfection of man is evident throughout the novel. However at the end of the novel, Marlow does the unthinkable. He tells a lie. Marlow was faced with a terrible situation. Instead of telling Kurtz’s fiance the truth, he decides to spare her feelings. This reveals the darkness and humanity lying within Marlow himself. Why didn’t Marlow tell her the truth ? Why didn’t he destroy the positive illusion of European colonization on the natives ? Even Marlow thought of murdering Kurtz. Her vision of Kurtz was just as delusional as his accomplishments in Africa. Her beliefs mimicked her fiance’s and the majority of Europe’s opinions about the African continent. The idea was to domesticate this region and its people. They wanted to bring life to the continent. Instead, they were swallowed by the jungle and their greed. Kurtz was an evil man. He hung the heads of natives on a fence. This was a very unreasonable practice especially for a “civilized” white man. The rules of society did not apply to Kurtz. Kurtz became obsessed with ivory.He even disregarded his health to stay near the ivory by crawling out of the boat and back into the unforgiving wilderness. This lead to his death. Greed took the life of many Europeans as they ventured into the jungle. Marlow was one of the few that managed to escape its grasps. Even as he left Africa, he could hear the jungle calling him as it swallowed up the sanity of his fellow men. A year later after his journey, Marlow still failed to connect with the inner meaning left from his travels. All Marlow wanted was justice but he refused to get it.His journey was over. Even though Marlow detested what Kurtz did, he understood how his illness came about. Marlow was lucky that he had not been swallowed by the darkness like Kurtz but it was still calling him. “Lucky were those that could glide past it veiled...by a slightly disdainful ignorance.” Only a person who ignored everything that they saw could leave the jungle unscarred. All people have the ability to do evil. It does not matter what color, nationality, or religion one belongs to. The Europeans came in the name of all that is good to only do evil things to the natives. Marlow did not want to shatter the moral world of his fiance. She believed in Kurtz’s vision and maybe Kurtz even had these same beliefs as well but he lost himself. Somewhere between reality and the darkness, Kurtz’s soul was lost. People can not handle too much power. It tends to only bring about pain and destruction. Only a few manage to escape the darkness that lies inside them. Good intentions can not mask the heart of all men, the heart of darkness.

In “The Heart of Darkness”, by Joseph Conrad, Marlow learns the true definition of humanity and of the inner evil that resides within all mankind. On his journey throughout the Congo, he witnesses an immense amount of evil actions. He saw the way the Europeans treated the Africans because of their differences. Marlow realized that a human being was still a human being no matter ones cultural roots."They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity.” The natives were still human and they hurt and bled just like the Europeans. People should learn to accept diversity and not force their beliefs on others. Even on his death bed, Kurtz had already been devoured by the darkness inside of him. "My ivory." Oh, yes, I heard him. "My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—" everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places." Marlow could not believe how self-entitled this man was. Even when he was dying, he was still full of greed and selfishness. Marlow’s journey also taught him about himself. Marlow could not sum up his experiences even when death came to his doorstep. Even though Marlow detested Kurtz, he still admired the fact that he was willing to admit his afflictions with his last dying breath.Western society continues to take away from indigenous communities to civilize their own nations instead of give back to the people they are robbing of natural resources. Humanity does not mean to conform to social norms, it means to accept everyone despite it. Light can come out of the darkness only when man realizes the root of this evil and admits to secumbing to our own selfish desires instead of the needs of our fellow men.



The Heart of Darkness Essay - Zac Vickers

Throughout Joseph Conrad’s novel “The Heart of Darkness” the theme man’s inhumanity towards man is extremely evident, but the extent to which this inhumanity goes is not quite as prominent. Throughout the novel the reader is given several examples of the grip that darkness hold on the people in this land as well as the progression of its influence among the people. In Conrad’s novel the darkness in men's hearts creates both gratuitously merciless men and docile, submissive men.

One of the major themes in “The Heart of Darkness” imperialism and the effects that it has on people. Throughout the novel the reader is able to pick a multitude of situation where it is likely madness was involved. As a result, it would seem that madness and imperialism are related. In this novel madness holds multiple purposes, but the most prominent one is its ability yor engage the reader’s sympathies. At a point in his story Marlow tells us of his being told about Kurtz’s madness, but Kurtz’s madness is only relative, that in the context of the company insanity is hard to define. This leads to the reader sympathizing with Kurtz, but they become suspicious of the company. This suspicion of the company and sympathy for Kurtz stems from the fact that you can clearly see that something is wrong with Kurtz, but the company has no physical representation beyond its actual employees.

“The Heart of Darkness” is a novel that explores hypocrisy, ambiguity, and moral confusion and the “evil” that is wrought by these circumstances. Often times throughout the novel Marlow is forced to choose between the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” As the the novel progresses it becomes vastly evident that Marlow is eventually going to have to make a decision; does he align himself with the hypocrisy and malice of the bureaucratic company or the openly-malevolent, rule-defying tyranny Kurtz? However, the larger issue is reflected in the number of ridiculous situations that Marlow witnesses. At the Outer Station, Marlow witnesses the natives blasting away at a hillside for, what seems like, no particular reason. However, what makes this significant is that Marlow’s reactions to such events hint at the skewing of his moral compass, as the reaction that Kurtz’s homicidal megalomania and a leaky bucket foment from Marlow are practically indistinguishable.

Ultimately, Joseph Conrad’s novel shows us that every man is susceptible to that influence of darkness. Man’s inhumanity towards men, while terrible, is simple human nature, for when men are put in a place of power, which is left unregulated by the laws of man and cut off from the rest of the world, the darkness that is ever present in the hearts of men grows and ultimately twists and contorts him into a monster of inconceivable evil and unlimited potential that strives for nothing, but more power. However, this darkness that takes over a mans heart strives for more than power, as this darkness is a disease that, while present in the hearts of all, lies dormant waiting for the influence of one that is already been influenced to spring to life and take over the one that it resides in. This darkness however, is not the madness that most believe it to be, but rather the instinctual part of the human psyche that lies in wait of its time to take over, and when it does there is no turning back, that person is lost forever in it clutches.


The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible Essay - Kelsi Nix

Although Nathan Price was always abusive and disrespectful moving to Africa made him even worse. He is so obsessed to teach the people of Africa about God, it makes it worst. His guilt about the army overwhelms him. He becomes inconsiderate of his wife and four daughters. Nathan Price was the reason his family fell apart. Nathan Price was driven by guilt because he was the only member of the army to survive. He is certain that God despises him as a coward. Because of that, he is determined to save as many souls as he can. Saving the people of Africa is his main priority. He becomes obsessed with it, and he is moving too fast, the people there refuse to get into the water to get baptized because a little girl got killed by a crocodile. Price also plans a “Easter Sunday” in the Summer to baptize them. He becomes frustrated because he is failing to save the souls of Africa. Nathan Price drags his family into the Congo to be an instrument of God, even at the expense of his family. The family was limited to what they could bring to Africa which caused them to have to stuff items in their layers of clothes. The Congo is a real dangerous place, they had to take medication to keep from catching diseases like malaria, which Ruth May caught. The snakes there could kill you instantly. The family had to go through trouble for simple things like have water. They never had what they needed and they were starving and begging to go back to Georgia. Nathan was too focused on the Congo that he ignored them, which was very unsympathetic of his family. Nathan Price’s family started going downhill when they moved to Kilanga. His family, Orleanna despises him more than she did before, she starts looking looking for ways to get her and her daughters out of Africa, she even tries to bribe Axelroot to fly them out. Leah, his daughter who always looked up to him starts to lose her faith. His refusal to leave Africa even costed the life of his youngest daughter, Ruth May. Nathan may have sacrificed to teach the Congo about God but it changed him. He became even more violent, he stopped caring for his family, and his drove him family apart. The Congo changed him and not in a good way.

The Poisonwood Bible Essay - Octavia Holley

The Poisonwood Bible is a novel that captures the Price family’s beginning on a mission trip in Africa. The story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price. In the novel, Leah is the second oldest of the Price daughters. Leah is one of the most unique characters. In the novel Leah’s beliefs, faith, and loyalty changes throughout the story. Leah is described as a tomboy. She is very devoted to her beliefs even though her beliefs undergo a change over the course of the novel. Leah’s main desire is to do whatever makes her father happy. “I know he must find me tiresome, yet still I like spending time with my father very much more than I like doing anything else” (Kingsolver 43). Leah embraces the move to Africa and supports her father’s decision. She worships her father. “I believe in God with all my might, but have been thinking lately that most of the details seem pretty much beneath His dignity” (Kingsolver 37). Before her family’s hardships, Leah holds on to the feelings of doubt in her religion. “This is what I most admire about Father: no matter how bad things might get, he eventually will find the grace to compose himself…” (Kingsolver 41). In the beginning of the novel, Leah deeply believes in her father. Leah starts out liking the Congo when they first arrive, but as she learns more about it she falls in love with it. At the beginning of the story, Leah is so dedicated in her faith that she refuses to curse because she believes it will hurt her chances of getting into heaven. “I myself would not curse...because I crave heaven and to be my father’s favorite” (Kingsolver 66). As Leah falls more in love with the Congo, she loses her faith in Christianity. She begins to accept the Congo. “I felt so many different things right then...we had worked so hard, and for what? I felt confusion and dread. I sensed that the sun was going down on many things I believed in” (Kingsolver 80). Leah changes the most out of all characters throughout the novel. Leah is loyal to her father and his mission in the beginning of the story. It takes a lot for Leah to question what she believes in, regarding her father and her religion. As Leah’s character changes throughout the story, the reader can assume that she is completely devoted to the Congolese people and she thinks they are worthy of her loyalty. “I vowed to work hard for His favor surpassing all others in my devotion to turning the soil for God’s great glory” (Kingsolver 45). Throughput the novel, Leah’s love for the Congo seems to cause her to be intimidated by Nathan. “I’m sorry? My heart skipped a beat. Here I’d been trying to second guess Father...He is always two steps ahead of me” (Kingsolver 95). Here, Leah turns away from her father and family. She begins to ignore his religion to embrace another religion she considers is just as important. Leah’s beliefs, faith, and loyalty changes throughout the novel, The Poisonwood Bible. It takes a lot to change her faith. It seems that Leah only feels guilty about things she really should not feel guilty about. Leah feels as if she is not living up to Nathan’s standards. Leah feels that she has to be guilty about something.

Poisonwood Bible - Shalisa Pollard

The Poisonwood Bible is a novel that captures the Price family’s beginning on a mission trip in Africa. The story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price. In the novel, Leah is the second oldest of the Price daughters. Leah is one of the most unique characters. In the novel Leah’s beliefs, faith, and loyalty changes throughout the story. Leah is described as a tomboy. She is very devoted to her beliefs even though her beliefs undergo a change over the course of the novel. Leah’s main desire is to do whatever makes her father happy. “I know he must find me tiresome, yet still I like spending time with my father very much more than I like doing anything else” (Kingsolver 43). Leah embraces the move to Africa and supports her father’s decision. She worships her father. “I believe in God with all my might, but have been thinking lately that most of the details seem pretty much beneath His dignity” (Kingsolver 37). Before her family’s hardships, Leah holds on to the feelings of doubt in her religion. “This is what I most admire about Father: no matter how bad things might get, he eventually will find the grace to compose himself…” (Kingsolver 41). In the beginning of the novel, Leah deeply believes in her father. Leah starts out liking the Congo when they first arrive, but as she learns more about it she falls in love with it. At the beginning of the story, Leah is so dedicated in her faith that she refuses to curse because she believes it will hurt her chances of getting into heaven. “I myself would not curse...because I crave heaven and to be my father’s favorite” (Kingsolver 66). As Leah falls more in love with the Congo, she loses her faith in Christianity. She begins to accept the Congo. “I felt so many different things right then...we had worked so hard, and for what? I felt confusion and dread. I sensed that the sun was going down on many things I believed in” (Kingsolver 80). Leah changes the most out of all characters throughout the novel. Leah is loyal to her father and his mission in the beginning of the story. It takes a lot for Leah to question what she believes in, regarding her father and her religion. As Leah’s character changes throughout the story, the reader can assume that she is completely devoted to the Congolese people and she thinks they are worthy of her loyalty. “I vowed to work hard for His favor surpassing all others in my devotion to turning the soil for God’s great glory” (Kingsolver 45). Throughput the novel, Leah’s love for the Congo seems to cause her to be intimidated by Nathan. “I’m sorry? My heart skipped a beat. Here I’d been trying to second guess Father...He is always two steps ahead of me” (Kingsolver 95). Here, Leah turns away from her father and family. She begins to ignore his religion to embrace another religion she considers is just as important. Leah’s beliefs, faith, and loyalty changes throughout the novel, The Poisonwood Bible. It takes a lot to change her faith. It seems that Leah only feels guilty about things she really should not feel guilty about. Leah feels as if she is not living up to Nathan’s standards. Leah feels that she has to be guilty about something.
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This is the family on their journey to the Congo.
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The Congo River where the child died by being eaten by an alligator.
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The church
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The family was from the state of Georgia.
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Ruth May got bit by a snake in the chicken coop.
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The Villiage
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The Congo River.
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Entering into Africa and the troop spying.
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Africa
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Where the explorers are from.
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Ivory plantation
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Rachel got married at the French Congo and she owned a hotel.

The Heart of Darkness - Setting

The Boat


"THE Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide. " The boat represents a new beginning. Many of the men on the ship are new comers and are in for a new adventure. The boat represents light in that it represents a new beginning and a new adventure. On the other hand, it ventures into the unknown. The people on the boat will not realize how hard their journey will be once the land on their destination. It represents new opportunity but everything comes with a price. Many of the men disappear or go mad because of their desire for adventure.


Light: Adventure, New beginning

Dark: Reality, darkness

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The River


"The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth." The river was very dark and gloomy in the novel. It had an unfriendly aura much like the jungle itself. It represented adventure of the passengers but it also foreshadowed what was going to happen next in the novel. Even Marlow realized that what he expected from his trip was not what he had envisioned at first. It was supposed to be a new beginning. The river along with the jungle represents an untamed entity.


Light: journey, adventure

Dark: Death, gloom, treacherous (snake)

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The Jungle


The wilderness is not a person as such, but rather an ominous, brooding, and omnipotent force that continually watches the "fantastic invasion" of the white man. The activities of the white people are viewed throughout the book as insane and pointless. They spend their existence grubbing for ivory or plotting against each other for position and status within their own environment. Their whole society seems to have an air of unreality about it. It is as if they are building their whole lives on nothing more substantial than a morning mist, easily blown away by the merest puff of wind. Marlow comments: "The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it . . . I've never seen anything so unreal in my life"


Light: Adventure, riches

Dark: Insanity, madness

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The Poisonwood Bible - Setting

The Village


The village in the Poisonwood Bible represents oppurtunity. It is almost like a lingering possibility. When the price family first arrives, they are hopeful. It's like Africa before European colonization. This illustrates a light like a new beginning. Then when the Price family actually starts to see how the people of the village view them, they realize it will not be easy to convert them to a new way of life. That is comparable to nature. Nature does not follow the will of man rather it follows its own way of life. It can not be controlled. This illustrates the darkness because it is almost like the unknown. The Price family does not know what they are in for once they get off the plane. It is a fear of the future that creates an eerie setting over the family. They are in an unknown place.


Light: New people, civilization, beautiful surroundings

Dark: opposition, too much of a difference, reistance

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The Church


The church is the only safe haven for the Price family other than their hut. In these places they can be themselves and hide away from the natives. The image of the church is good compared to the minister who actually runs it. It also displays a bit of corruption because of Nathan. He tries to force the natives into converting instead of allowing them to find their way which is what he was supposed to do. The church is a symbol of light for the people who willfully come not the ones who are forced there. It can be seen as a new opportunity or a place to be forcefully conformed to to its foreign policies.


Light: New beginning, conformation, being saved

Dark: forced colonization

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The River


The river in a sense represents the Price family and the future success of their goals. The river is noisy and unforgiving. A little girl was eaten by an alligator there and represents the taking of life. It represents the beauty of nature and life . On the other hand it represents how unpredictable nature and life can be.


Light: baptism, being saved

Dark: forced to conform, death

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Literary Elements

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Africa Map

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The Posionwood Bible and The Heart of Darkness character analysis.
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