Heart of Darkness Essay Example Completed in 2019

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Joseph Conrads novella Heart of Darkness is a fictionalized account of real-life historical events that took place during the colonial era in Africa. The novel centers on the protagonist Charles Marlow, known throughout the book as Marlow. As Marlow travels deeper and deeper down the river on a mission for the Company, he becomes increasingly horrified and shocked by what he sees. Having witnessed first hand the insane cruelty of colonial oppression, Marlow completely reconsiders his own role in the world. Through Heart of Darkness, Conrad conveys anti-colonial sentiments, showing how racism and exploitation are detrimental to all human societies.


Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness is one of the most important works of literature you will be asked to encounter in your academic career. Because of this, you may need some tips on how to write about Heart of Darkness. At first, writing about famous novels like this one can seem difficult. You may not know where to begin, especially if your essay is longer than a few pages.

This guide will help you construct the best possible essay that is about the tone, themes, and literary devices Conrad uses in his renowned work. If you dont know where to begin, you can use the following sample essay and guide to help you write about a book like Heart of Darkness.

Conrads Heart of Darkness is a short novel, also known as a novella. A novella is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. It is much less daunting than long tomes like War and Peace. Conrads work is also easy to understand, as the author uses straightforward language.

The book Heart of Darkness became famous for good reason. It is still relevant because it discusses issues like social injustice and how people react to injustices like exploitation and racism.

As a student, you will also benefit tremendously from learning about the historical context of the novel. Understanding why Conrad wrote the book can help you understand the deeper meanings you will be asked to analyze in class.

Therefore, writing about Heart of Darkness, or any other work of literature like it, you will benefit from a little context.

Learning about the author and his motives for writing Heart of Darkness will help you understand and appreciate the book.

Also, you can learn about the historical epoch and cultural context of the novella. Background information about any work of literature will make it significantly easier for you to write your next literary essay.

Whether your essay is about characterization and setting, or a literary critique of Heart of Darkness, this guide will lead you through the steps needed to impress your readers and gain confidence in your own writing skills.

What the Novel is Aboutand What it is Really About

Authors often write about political topics and themes in indirect ways, which is what makes their work so effective and enduring. When a writer like Conrad writes in an indirect way, they capture the essence of the issues that their characters endure and experience. The writer therefore bridges gaps between space and time, showing the universality of the human condition.

If you ever wondered why students are still reading works of literature that are hundreds of years old, such as Shakespeare, it is because the same problems continue to plague people no matter how advanced the society or what language we speak.

With Heart of Darkness the author refers to issues related to colonialism. The book has become one of the most important fictionalized accounts of historical eventsevents that actually did take place. That means Conrad uses the medium of fiction to provide poignant social commentary about history.

If Conrad had simply spelled out his views for readers, the result would have been a polemical, pedantic, opinionated essay. It might have been well-written, but it might not have stood the test of time since he focused exclusively on a specific time and place rather than providing readers with symbols and universal motifs that all audiences can relate to.

For this reason, Conrads Heart of Darkness provided the framework for the film Apocalypse Now, which is about the Vietnam War. In fact, you could choose to write about how the film Apocalypse Now is both similar to and different from Heart of Darkness in a format resembling a compare/contrast essay.

Another possible area of research would be to discuss Conrads novel Heart of Darkness as a fictionalized account of the authors own experiences traveling in the Belgian colonial strongholds of central Africa. The non-fiction counterpart to Heart of Darkness is a recent publication by Adam Hochschild entitled King Leopolds Ghost. You could discuss Heart of Darkness in light of the actual historical events that Hochschild details in King Leopolds Ghost.

Characterization, Theme, Setting, Literary Devices

A very common assignment in English literature and composition classes is to focus on one specific aspect of the novel or story, such as characterization or theme. Characterization refers to how Conrad constructs, draws, and builds his main characters. The main characters in Heart of Darkness include the protagonist Marlow, and also Mr. Kurtz, the eccentric white man who lives in deep in the jungle and who has completely lost touch with reality. For instance, you could discuss how colonialism is the reason why Mr. Kurtz has gone insane.

Setting is also a critical element in Conrads Heart of Darkness. The novel remains effective because it is set in a specific time and place: colonial Africa. In your essay, you could discuss the ways the setting impacts the effectiveness of the novel as a whole. You could write about how Conrad describes the setting in Heart of Darkness, so that readers know they are peering into a specific historical time and place.

Another approach to writing about Heart of Darkness is to discuss features like irony, motifs, and symbols used in the book. These types of things are collectively referred to as literary devices in your essay. Literary devices are the tools writers use to make their work more powerful, interesting, and effective. For example, you could write about the motif of darkness that is used in the novel, as well as in the title, to refer to race as well as to psychological darkness.


Truth is Stranger Than Fiction: How Conrads Heart of Darkness Softens the Realities of Colonialism in the Belgian Congo
A Path of Light, a Path of Darkness: Comparing and Contrasting Marlow and Kurtz
What is Africa? How the Dark Continent is Portrayed by European Outsiders in Heart of Darkness.
The Horror: Heart of Darkness Exposes the Evils of Colonialism


I. Introduction
A. Leading in with a hook: Uttering one of the most famous lines written in all modern literature, Mr. Kurtz cries out, The horror, the horror!
B. Items to be discussed in the essay.
1.Marlow starts out idealistic and eager to learn about the remote areas he visits.
2.As he witnesses the death and destruction meted out by his fellow Europeans, Marlow becomes increasingly cynical.
3.Completely uncomfortable and exposed to death and disease, Marlow witnesses the extreme example of losing ones soul to colonialism in the personage of Mr. Kurtz.
C. Thesis: Conrads novel Heart of Darkness is overtly political, demonstrating how colonialism destroys the hearts and souls of allhuman beings.
II. Body
A. First body paragraph about the characterization and motives of Marlow, the protagonist of the novel.
B. Second body paragraph about the transformation in Marlows character.
C. Third body paragraph about the identity of Mr. Kurtz, as someone who is intelligent but whose human potential has been squandered on the colonial enterprise.
III. Conclusion
A. Restating the thesis: Through Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad offers readers poignant social and political commentary about the ravages of colonialism and racism in Africa.
B. Conrad offers a fictionalized account using strong characterization of people like Mr. Kurtz who become drunk on their own power through colonial exploitation.
C. Finishing with a strong statement: Conrads Heart of Darkness endures as a work of literature because exploitation, racism, and sexism continue to plague human societies.


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