Hiding our hearts of darkness: another voice against graded observations

Reflecting English

heart of darkness

Written in 1899, Joseph Conrad’s most well-known work, Heart of Darkness, tells the tale of Charles Marlow, an ivory transporter, and his colonial-era journey up the River Congo. Marlow becomes increasingly obsessed with the enigmatic Kurtz, the tyrannical ‘chief’ of a station up-river who has become a ‘god-like’ figure to the people he brutalizes.

In more recent years, Conrad’s story has been accused – rightly or wrongly – of racism. For me, however, the most famous line of the novella, immortalised too in Francis Ford Copolla’s Vietnam-era movie Apocalypse Now, comes as Kurtz’s is dying: “The horror, the horror.” Kurtz’s final words are ambiguous: the meaning is deliberately nebulous, leaving us to interpret for ourselves. My reading, however, has always been clear: that, like Conrad’s depiction of Western ‘civilisation’, there is a dark side to all of us. We must learn to stare this in the face before…

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