Questions for Heart of Darkness

We are going to be working with Conrad’s masterpiece Heart of Darkness over the next two weeks, then reading Chinua Achebe’s criticism of that work, as well as his Things Fall Apart as something of a counterpoint to it. As you read the text, broadly keep in mind the following:

1) How is Africa described? As the work progresses, what image of Africa do you have in your head? How is the text challenging/failing to challenge you? Why is Africa “darkness”? In what ways does the text challenge/fail to challenge this image?

2) Marlow is, in fact, a secondary narrator who tells the tale to the primary narrator we meet at the beginning of the story. What is the effect of this narrative style?

3) Think about the different motivations characters express for the so-called “colonial enterprise.” Why are Europeans there? Do thee motivations match what are actually doing?

4) Many of the people Marlow meets hold Kurtz up as an exemplar of the European mission in Africa. How is this true? Not true? In what sense is is both?

5) Reflect on which people in the text are actors (i.e. those who DO something) and which people are acted upon. Why is this representation important? How does this representative mode underscore or undercut the novel’s explicit critiques of colonialism and empire?


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