Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights

  1. To understand Heart of Darkness, we need to look at some of the traditional symbols Conrad uses.

  2. Also, note Marlow's physical journey as it relates to his emotional and spiritual experiences. In this regard, consider possible symbolic interpretations of Marlow's journey.

  3. Frequently, journeys result in the enlightenment of the hero-traveler, in which he or she learns something about the world, the nature of humankind or God, or the nature of good and evil; on these occasions, the character also grasps an understanding of his or her personal self. To what degree do the characters in Heart of Darkness achieve enlightenment?

  4. Highlight details and comments that support or relate to the following generalizations and themes that appear in the novel:

    • Humans act inhumanly toward their fellow humans.

    • Humankind's nature is dualistic in that it contains the potential for both good and evil.

    • Confronting one's own evil nature may lead to self-knowledge, but it can also lead to disastrous consequences.

    • Those who claimed to be bringing light and enlightenment to Africa were, in fact, destroying the continent. Consider how whites and natives interact in the novel.

    • Examine the proposition that Heart of Darkness reflects Conrad's anger at the barbarities of imperialistic greed.

  5. Relate the religious allusions that are made throughout the text, especially those that refer to life, death, disciples, the soul, and Christ to specific characters and themes in the novel.