“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad is considered to be the most famous work by this author. It was first published in 1899 in a popular literature journal of his day (Bloom 17). In this novel, Conrad shares his experience as a mariner received during his visit to the West Africa. The novel is first person narrated, and told through the personage named Charlie Marlow. Charlie Marlow is a seaman who shares his experience after visiting the heart of the Belgian Congo. His observations described in the novel are rather contradictive which offers some space for the reader’s thought. This is a special method applied by the author with a purpose of involving his readers into an open dialogue. As a result, the readers may evaluate the events of the novel form their own point of view, and, thus, take an active part in the story creation. After reading “Heart of Darkness”, many people come to a conclusion that the book’s author and the main protagonist of the novel are racists. However, evaluating numerous details of the text, a conclusion can be made that such a position is a mistake because neither Marlow nor Conrad showed prejudiced attitude to the African people.

“Heart of Darkness” does not appear to me as a racist opus on many reasons. First of all, Marlow does not show negative attitude to African people as it is evident in numerous accounts described in the novel. Marlow did not have a negative attitude for the members of his crew who were black. When his helmsman was killed in the attack by Kurtz Marlow was really sad. Later, he shared that he could not forget the face expression of this man when he died. I am not prepared to affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life lost in getting to him”, commented Marlow his helmsman’s death (Conrad 25). The same attitude was evident in the case when a sick black person was in danger of being eaten by the cannibals of the crew. Marlow threw this man overboard to save him.

Further, Marlow felt sorry for the natives when they were in danger to be killed by the pilgrims. This situation occurred after retrieving Kurtz. When the natives gathered along the river, Marlow blew the horn of his steamer to scare them away into the forests as he knew that this would save them from being shot. “It was very simple, and in the end of the day these men were saved, and I felt relief”, writes Marlow in his notes (Conrad 31).

Next, Marlow does not mention many women in his writings; however, he pays special attention to the African women who marveled him to the greatest extent. He was amazed with her movements and appearance. This is evident from the detailed description he made after seeing that woman in the forest. “I raised my head. I saw something miraculous. That was a native woman”, Marlow recalls (Conrad 34). Again, it is evident that the main protagonist does not have racist inclinations.

In conclusion, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad is a great piece of literature on African history. Although a number of readers feel that the author of this novel and its main character Charlie Marlow are racists, closer look to the events described in the book does not suggest such a conclusion.


Bloom, H. (Ed.). (1987). Joseph Conrad”s Heart of Darkness. New York: Chelsea House. Web.

Conrad, J. (2010). Heart of Darkness. The United States: CreateSpace.

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