Heart of Darkness has two endings: that of Marlow’s story and that of the frame narrative. Marlow trails off in the middle of explaining why he lied to Kurtz’s Intended: “It would have been too dark—too dark altogether...” The frame narrative ends with a similar, brooding melancholy. After Marlow trails off, the crew of the Nellie sits silently, and the narrator looks toward London, which appears to be at “the heart of an immense darkness.” These two endings make parallel references to “darkness.” The first reference pertains to Kurtz’s shameful demise, and the second pertains to the ominous cloud suspended over London. These references to darkness imply a symbolic reversal. Whereas the novella has presented the trip into the Congo as a journey into the heart of darkness, it turns out that the heart of darkness may have been located in London—as well as other centers of European imperialism—all along. Such a symbolic reversal reflects the fact that what Marlow finds in the deepest reaches of the Congo is not so much African savagery as European evil, with Kurtz symbolizing the peak of European moral bankruptcy.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Heart of Darkness!