Heart of Darkness: A Journey into the Dark Side of Human Nature

1. Introduction

Charlie Marlow is the central character in Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. The story is told through Marlow’s eyes, and it is his journey into the African continent that forms the basis of the novel. Marlow’s dark journey into the heart of Africa is a metaphor for the dark journey into the heart of human nature. What Marlow discovers about the European presence in Africa and what he discovers about the potential of human nature are two of the most important themes in the novel.

2. What Marlow discovers about the European presence in Africa

Marlow’s journey into Africa is a journey into the dark heart of colonialism. The Africans that Marlow meets are treated with cruelty and abuse by the Europeans. They are kept in chains and treated like animals. Marlow witnesses firsthand the maltreatment of Africans by Europeans, and he is horrified by it. He comes to realize that the Europeans are not bringing civilization to Africa, but are instead bringing their own brand of savagery. Marlow also discovers that the Europeans are not content with merely exploiting Africa; they also want to destroy it. In Conrad’s words, the Europeans are “hollow at the core” (Conrad, p. 78). They are devoid of any real humanity, and their only goal is to exploit and destroy.

3. What Marlow discovers about the potential of human nature

What Marlow discovers about human nature is even more disturbing than what he discovers about the European presence in Africa. He comes to realize that human beings are capable of great evil. He sees this evil in colonialists like Kurtz, who has gone completely mad and has turned into a monster. But he also sees it in himself. Marlow comes to realize that he too is capable of great evil. He has the same capacity for savagery as Kurtz and the other colonialists. This realization is what ultimately leads Marlow to reject colonialism and return to Europe.

4. Conclusion

Heart of Darkness is a powerful indictment of colonialism and a frightening exploration of human nature. Through the character of Charlie Marlow, Conrad shows us the savagery that lurks within all of us. He also shows us that colonialism is an evil force that destroys both those who practise it and those who suffer from it.

FAQ

Marlow's character changes throughout the novel as he becomes more and more disillusioned with the colonial project that he is a part of. He starts out full of idealism, but by the end of the novel he has come to see the darkness and cruelty at the heart of it all.

Marlow is motivated to continue his journey into the heart of darkness because he wants to understand what it is that motivates people to do such terrible things. He is also driven by a need to prove to himself that he is not like those who have succumbed to the darkness.

Conrad uses light and darkness to symbolize good and evil in the novel. The light represents hope and civilization, while the darkness represents savagery and destruction.