Newest Review: ... most famous work. In my opinion it is certainly his most potent. Heart of Darkness is the 2nd of 3 books written by Conrad that make use ... more
Oooh Kurtz, You SAVAGE You!
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
Member Name: SpankMarvin
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
Date: 31/07/01, updated on 31/07/01 (443 review reads)
Advantages: Raises interesting questions, Demanding read
Disadvantages: Not exactly thrilling in terms of plot twists or developments, Requires attention!
The novel concentrates mainly on the self and the danger which one has of becoming a savage. The idea is that savagery is a reversion, the result of lack of restraint which is all too easily released when someone is left to their own devices in a position of power. The example of this in Heart of Darkness is Kurtz, a man who, like Marlow, went to the Congo, but unlike Marlow did not have the distractions to stop him becoming an immoral animal and the very type of person that the colonisers consider the colonised to be. Marlow has the distraction of his boat to keep him fairly normal, his boat isolating him from the savage and influential shores. Kurtz, in his freedom among those of the Congo, becomes one of them without ever being able to relate with them. He is also a man whose darkened soul haunts him without ever being definable in terms of specific identity or specific cause. He is savage yet civilised, murderous and yet haunted by “The Horror!” of what he has experienced. Much as the Thames and the Congo overlap each other in the story, so too do Kurtz’s characteristic qualities.
In this sense, the novel is very much one of the original “modern” novels, concentrating principally on ideas and emotional provocation than on a specific
plot or concrete characters. That is not to say that the characters are not believable – it is their contradictory and disturbing nature which makes them so complex and therefore so human. This is a good job, as there are really only two main characters in the book, although the others are still important. Kurtz, although brutal, is a troubled man. Likewise Marlow, although the hero, still show signs of weakness and potential savagery. The disturbing thing about this is the fact that it is also very easy to identify with the narrator, and this leads you to consider that we are all potentially dark souls capable of brutality (particularly true in Tesco at Christmas time).
The style of this novel means that there are no cliff-hangers or revelations as such, but more that there are moments when you cannot help but stop and think, or be affected by the sheer barbarism or attitudes of the characters. It is not easy reading, although it is a deceptively short book. Pages take a long time to read, because the book is very psychological and, being told in an autobiographical style, personal and thought-provoking.
The version I bought was slightly more expensive because it is the Norton Critical Edition, containing many other resources as well as the text itself:
BACKGROUNDS AND SOURCES: Information on the Congo, with map, history, and various letters, photographs and reports. There is also information about Joseph Conrad in the Congo, essays about his writing of the novel, and essays by Conrad himself on life and art.
CRITICISM: A variety of essays, some recent some not, about the Heart of Darkness text, some of which also talk about Apocalypse Now.
There is a lot of material here which is well worth the extra money, as it helps to gain a better understanding of the meaning of the text. Although I didn’t necessarily agree with everything in the essays, they still help
ed me to formulate ideas of my own, and raised some very interesting points which I would never have considered. This is an interesting and often disturbing book which is well worth reading because it makes you think and is demanding and therefore rewarding. Being the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, it is worth reading Heart of Darkness especially if you liked the film, or if you just enjoy howling and dancing like a savage.