Heart of Darkness: A Journey into the Soul of Colonialism
Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad, first published in 1899. It tells the story of Charles Marlow, a British sailor who travels up the Congo River in search of a mysterious ivory trader named Kurtz. Along the way, he witnesses the horrors of colonial exploitation, racism, and violence. He also discovers that Kurtz has become a tyrannical and insane ruler of a native tribe, who worships him as a god.
The novella is widely regarded as a masterpiece of English literature and a powerful critique of imperialism. It has inspired many adaptations and interpretations, such as the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, which transposes the story to the Vietnam War. It has also sparked controversy and debate over its portrayal of Africa and Africans, which some critics have denounced as racist and dehumanizing.
Heart of Darkness explores themes such as the nature of evil, the corruption of power, the hypocrisy of civilization, and the ambiguity of truth. It also raises questions about the role of the narrator, who is not a reliable or objective witness to the events he describes. The novella challenges the reader to confront their own assumptions and prejudices, and to reflect on the darkness that lurks in every human heart.
The novella is divided into three parts, each corresponding to a different stage of Marlow’s journey. In the first part, he arrives at the Company’s station in the Congo, where he sees the brutal treatment of the native workers and the inefficiency and greed of the European agents. He also hears about Kurtz, who is described as a remarkable and influential man who has brought great profits to the Company.
In the second part, he travels on a steamboat along the river, accompanied by a crew of cannibals and a pilgrim who is obsessed with ivory. He encounters various dangers and difficulties, such as attacks by hostile natives, a dense fog, and a breakdown of the boat. He also learns more about Kurtz, who has sent back severed heads of rebels and written a report on the suppression of savage customs, ending with the phrase “Exterminate all the brutes!”
In the third part, he finally reaches Kurtz’s station, where he finds a decaying and chaotic scene. He meets Kurtz’s mistress, a beautiful and fierce native woman who seems to have a strong hold on him. He also meets Kurtz himself, who is dying of an unspecified illness and reveals his inner turmoil and despair. Marlow decides to take him back to civilization, but Kurtz dies on the way, uttering his famous last words: “The horror! The horror!”