Heart of Darkness
By Joseph Conrad
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Heart of Darkness tells the story of Charles Marlow, an English man who journeys into the African jungle. The difference between Conrad's novella and other classic adventure fictions, like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, is that Heart of Darkness goes beyond classic motifs of discovery and exploration to explicitly deal with questions of racism, exploitation and colonization. Marlow's mission in the story is to transport ivory and to take Kurtz, an experienced ivory trader, back to Europe. The events in the African jungle are sandwiched by two scenes aboard a ship anchored in the Thames where Marlow reveals the details of his adventures to a group of friends. The darkness of the bloody happenings that Marlow witnesses during his journey parallels the fall of dusk on the Thames as the story is being told. In Africa, Marlow is mainly disgusted with white men's shallowness and mischievous behavior with natives. The readers ultimately understand that the darkness of the title does not only stand for the horrors in the African wilderness, but mainly for the cruelty of the colonizer's heart. Indeed, the symbolism of Heart of Darkness centers around the mystery of human inclination towards wickedness.