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Conrad is Shakespeare in prose; more than any other modern novelist, he determines what it means to be human. His "Heart of Darkness" defines what motivated Shakespeare's characters from Warwick, the "kingmaker," to the personalities of the major tragedies. Indebted to Henry James, Conrad deftly manipulates point of view, character, setting and tone to dramatize consciousness. His "objective correlatives" -- "fascination with the abomination," "my ivory," "exterminate the brutes, " and of course "the horror...the horror" sears the reader's soul...


As you read, look for their presence...


Along with The Bible, Oedipus and Hamlet,
Heart of Darkness
explores more essentially
than most texts what it means to be human.

1--Discuss the narrative technique Conrad uses. Consider especially the use of point of view and frame narrative. Shifts in time are important.

2--For each chapter, establish the context for the words listed, and be able to explain their significance utilizing also the INFLUENCES mentioned above. Establishing connotations is important.

3--Note that our text, THE NORTON CRITICAL EDITION OF HEART OF DARKNESS, contains significant primary and secondary source criticism.

Chapter One:

Chapter Two:

Chapter Three:

Additional Questions:

3--What does the title of the novel mean?

4--About eight miles from the Inner station, an event happens that allows Conrad to state what is probably the novel’s major theme. Explain.

5--How does Conrad dramatize the consciousness of Kurtz?

6--What is the major archetype in the novel, and note in interpreting that four levels of meaning emerge. Examine the Jung archetypes discussed on my Gothic web page.

7--Draw any Shakespearean and Tolkien correlations you can.

8--Apply the vocabulary of Aristotle to the novel: plot tragedy catharsis pity fear catharsis reversal

9-My Gothic fiction web site has extended commentary on Jung's shadow and descent archetypes with many references to Heart of Darkness. CLICK HERE.