Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, published in 1899, is a novella that explores the dark and enigmatic heart of human nature through the journey of Charles Marlow into the Congo Free State in Africa. Marlow recounts his experiences aboard a steamboat traveling up the Congo River, where he encounters the ivory trader Kurtz, whose descent into madness becomes a metaphor for the moral ambiguity and brutality of European imperialism.

The novella is set against the backdrop of the late 19th-century colonial era, a time when European powers were engaged in exploitative ventures in Africa. Conrad’s depiction of the African landscape and its people reflects the dehumanizing impact of colonialism. The narrative raises profound questions about the consequences of unchecked power, the nature of civilization, and the capacity for darkness within the human soul.

Heart of Darkness has been the subject of extensive critical analysis and is considered a classic of modernist literature. Its exploration of themes such as imperialism and its effects on the human psyche has made it a staple in literature courses. The novella has also inspired various adaptations and references in popular culture, including Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now, which transposes the story to the Vietnam War.

Read the full book summary, an in-depth character analysis of Kurtz, and explanations of important quotes from Heart of Darkness.

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