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Tuttle Publishing
The Heart of Darkness / Edition 2

The Heart of Darkness / Edition 2

by Joseph Conrad
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Did he live his life through in every detail of desire, temptation and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried whisperingly at some image at some vision,–he cried twice, with a cry that was no more than a breath–

"The horror! The Horror!"

Charles Marlow's journey into the heart of Africa is odyssey into corruption, absurdity the Africans and conspiring against each other; he voyages upstream on a paddle–steamer that comes under lethal attack; and he encounters the great idealist, Mr. Kurtz, the genius who seemed to represent the best Europe. But Mr. Kurtz has 'taken a high seat among the devils of the land,' and Marlow returns to Europe bearing the burden of appalling knowledge, forced to make his 'choice of nightmares.'

Conrad's critical tale of self inspired the far-reaching film Apocalypse Now as well as generations of critical discussion.

A comprehensive paperback edition, with introduction notes, selected criticism, text summary and chronology of Conrad's life and times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780460874779
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Publication date: 02/02/1995
Series: Everyman S
Edition description: Original
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 186,492
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Joseph Conrad visited the Congo in 1889 and his experiences there inspired Heart of Darkness. In 1894 he published his first novel, Almayer's Folly and went on to write 19 more as well as many short stories, essays and a memoir. Tim Butcher is the author of Blood River, Chasing the Devil, and The Trigger

Date of Birth:

December 3, 1857

Date of Death:

August 3, 1924

Place of Birth:

Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia

Place of Death:

Bishopsbourne, Kent, England


Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France

Read an Excerpt

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We four affectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.
Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns--and even convictions. The Lawyer--the best of old fellows&mdashhad, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug. The Accountant had brought out already a box of dominoes, and wastoying architecturally with the bones. Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol. The Director, satisfied the anchor had good hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board the yacht. For some reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun.

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, 'followed the sea' with reverence and affection, than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and untitled--the great knights-errant of the sea. It had borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashing in the night of time, from the Golden Hind returning with her round flanks full of treasure, to be visited by the Queen's Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic tale, to the Erebus and Terror, bound on other conquests--and that never returned. It had known the ships and the men. They had sailed from Deptford, from Greenwich, from Erith--the adventurers and the settlers; kings' ships and the ships of men on 'Change; captains, admirals, the dark 'interlopers' of the Eastern trade, and the commissioned 'generals' of East India fleets. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires.

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman lighthouse, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway&mdasha great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.

'And this also,' said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places of the earth.'

He was the only man of us who still 'followed the sea.' The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them--the ship; and so is their country--the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow--

'I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day . . . Light came out of this river since--you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine--what d'ye call 'em?--trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries--a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too--used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here--the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina&mdashand going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,--precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay--cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death--death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes--he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had done through his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by-and-by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga--perhaps too much dice, you know--coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him,--hall that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.'

He paused.

'Mind,' he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower--'Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency--the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force--nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind'as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea--something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to . . .'

He broke off. Flames glided in the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other--then separating slowly or hastily. The traffic of the great city went on in the deepening night upon the sleepless river. We looked on, waiting patiently--there was nothing else to do till the end of the flood; but it was only after a long silence, when he said, in a hesitating voice, 'I suppose you fellows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a bit,' that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow's inconclusive experiences.

'I don't want to bother you much with what happened to me personally,' he began, showing in this remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear; 'yet to understand the effect of it on me you ought to know how I got out there, what I saw, how I went up that river to the place where I first met the poor chap. It was the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience. It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me--and into my thoughts. It was sombre enough, too--and pitiful--not extraordinary in any way--not very clear either. No, not very clear. And yet it seemed to throw a kind of light.

'I had then, as you remember, just returned to London after a lot of Indian Ocean, Pacific, China Seas--a regular dose of the East--six years or so, and I was loafing about, hindering you fellows in your work and invading your homes, just as though I had got a heavenly mission to civilize you. It was very fine for a time, but after a bit I did get tired of resting. Then I began to look for a ship--I should think the hardest work on earth. But the ships wouldn't even look at me. And I got tired of that game, too.

'Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, When I grow up I will go there. The North Pole was one of these places, I remember. Well, I haven't been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour's off. Other places were scattered about the Equator, and in every sort of latitude all over the two hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won't talk about that. But there was one yet--the biggest, the most blank, so to speak--that I had a hankering after.

'True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery--a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird--a silly little bird. Then I remembered there was a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash it all! I thought to myself, they can't trade without using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water--steamboats! Why shouldn't I try to get charge of one? I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me.

Table of Contents

AUTHORBIO: Cedric Watts teaches at the University of Sussex.

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Joyce Carol Oates

One of the great, if troubling, visionary works of Western civilization.



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The Heart of Darkness 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Heart of Darkness: The Novel by Joseph Conrad After being informed by my language teacher about just how difficult the reading of Heart of Darkness was going to be, I prepared myself for a hard-to-read book with deeply hidden messages. And that was exactly what the novel turned out to be. The grand use of vocabulary as well as the now aged language used in the book made it all the more difficult to decipher the true meaning Joseph Conrad was trying to get across. However, we tackled the immensely difficult book as a class, section by section and sentence by sentence. By doing so we progressed at a steady pace through this book, reading out loud and discussing in depth what each section of reading meant to us. I believe this is the only way to accomplish grasping the intended messages in the novel and I do not recommend trying to read this book any other way. Still I do recommend undertaking the highly informative story. On the surface it seems to be an amazingly adventurous trek through the deadly labyrinth of the African continent but in turn expresses the feelings Conrad had towards the events and actions taking place in Africa during his era. As I have said several times, in order to interpret those hidden messages it is vital to have assistance from others reading the book as well and to discuss the various meanings of the story. But I recommend reading Heart of Darkness to get a true perception of just what was taking place in the time this book was written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Heart of Darkness Heart of Darkness, hhmmm, sounds exactly like what an insane murderer should read for tips. Just kidding. It¿s actually an adventure for the mind as well as the imagination. Written by Joseph Conrad, a Polish Englishman, in the 1890¿s, the novel describes the journey to the Congo taken by Marlow, the main character, who was initially sent there for business in recovering ivory (elephant tusks). On his journey, he encounters ¿savage¿ natives, corrupt port managers, and almost impenetrable minds. As he works his way deeper into the African Congo, he discovers that insanity and futility are common and rarely avoided by anyone, especially the man they call Kurtz. Kurtz is considered to be the best man in the business of ivory and is to be feared by all. His station sits near the center of the Congo and hosts everything from cannibals to Englishmen to obscure, almost futile, relics. It¿s the epitome of insanity. As Marlow becomes acquainted with Kurtz, his mind slowly begins to exit sanity and enter into insanity, his judgment becomes impaired, and his health begins to suffer, hence the title Heart of Darkness. Eventually, Marlow is forced to return home with only three things: a life lesson, a new outlook on humanity, and an unforgettable experience engraved in the back of his mind forever. In my mind, the novel will surpass any doubts you might have as to your liking this story. However, you should note that it is a very challenging read and you need to be out of your box when you do so. Other than that, I would recommend this book to anyone who seeks adventure and deeper meaning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The novel, Heart of Darkness, was a very difficult book to read. Even after reading only paragraph by paragraph, understanding what was going on was extremely hard. I think that this novel was completely useless and taught me nothing but confusion. I do not recommend reading this novel unless you have someone that understands to explain the meaning to you. Without someone¿s help you will not be able to understand the full meaning of the novel and will be thoroughly baffled. The themes of the novel were insanity and futility and without understanding help you will not be able to connect the themes to the novel. Unless you are up to an extreme challenge and have a lot of time on your hands to try and understand this confusing novel, then I say go for it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Heart of Darkness was a very disappointing book. I did not think it was a book worth reading. I regret ever picking the novel. My teacher was hyping up the novel so much and I thought I was going to learn a lot but I did not. Most of the book I did not understand anything that Conrad is saying. The only way I understood what he was talking about was when my teacher did a translation of the book in a way where I could understand it. Why would Joseph Conrad want to produce a novel that nobody could understand? But I would say that there were some parts of the book that I was happy that got the privilege of reading. I now understand futility after reading Heart Of Darkness. Just if you can not read between the lines don¿t try to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Heart of Darkness was intriguing in different parts. It captures your mind and lets your imagination run wild. Joseph Conrad sets up the scenes so that you feel like you are really there because you, the narrator, are one of the ship members. The book portrays the life and time period accurately. Heart of Darkness is a very challenging book to read and it should not be read all in one day. Although it is a 75 page book you should allow yourself enough time to comprehend it and let the information settle. Joseph Conrad makes the reader think about every sentence and the attention is never lost. Each time you put the book down there is a longing to find out what is going to happen next. The suspension is at a high level throughout the whole book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When reading the book Heart of Darkness, I found that the novel was very complicated and difficult to understand. But, when I watched the movie, it was not as hard to comprehend. I think that it all comes down to actually being able to see what is actually happening instead of having to interpret the complex writing of Joseph Conrad. The movie was also much more graphic than the novel. For example, in the novel when the spear was pierced into Mfumu¿s stomach, even though Joseph Conrad is known as a powerful author, I don¿t think that the pain that Marlow showed in the movie was expressed very well in the novel. When I read the novel, I didn¿t feel any emotions of sympathy for Marlow losing his friend, but when I watched the movie it became obvious that Marlow was sincerely grieving the loss of a good friend and I could see the pain that he was feeling. The novel didn¿t leave me with a great understanding for any hidden symbolism I merely just understood the bare minimum of what occurred in the book. I believe that it is wise to read the novel prior to watching the movie. I feel that I had a grasp on the basic concepts of the book and that the movie just cleared up some of the parts that were difficult to understand when I read it. Due to the complicated writing of Conrad, I don¿t think you can read the book without watching the movie or watch the movie without reading the book. I think that the two go hand in hand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joseph Conrad's timeless classic, 'Heart of Darkness', is a challenging look at the nature of the human condition. It is also a scathing indictment of imperialism and colonialism. In criticizing European imperialism, Conrad proved to be way ahead of his time. Contrary to accusations of racism (which are unsubstantiated and shallow), 'Heart of Darkness' is thematicly complex and ambiguous. The story serves to expose how easily corruptible the human soul is and how the notion of civilization is actually an illusion. This is a pessimistic outlook on humanity and may leave readers shocked and depressed. It is, nevertheless, a mesmerizing and provocative tale. Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
the accurate depiction of africans in the book made me instantly promote it to the level of 'one of my favorites'
Guest More than 1 year ago
his poor depiction of africans ruined the book for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Confusing, horrid,and unreadable. I will give Conrad credit for one thing though, this books shows how horrible is colonialism and imperialism. However, he treats African Americans like animals in the book. That was wrong. I agree with Achebe, writer of 'Things Fall Apart'. Don't bother unless you have to read it for class.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A truly terrifying tale that brings you into a decadent world of ivory, disease, and darkness. Where the jungle embraces and devours you. Hate and chaos reign over this most foul place. All this creates something beautiful and seductive, a spiral leading to the bowels of our morality, and our depravity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Joseph Conrad¿s Heart of Darkness tells the tale of Marlow a Riverboat Captain on an escapade into the Marvelous African Congo. Conrad intrigues the reader through his haunting vivid descriptions of Imperialism at it¿s worst. This historical novel reveals the truth of the evils and savagery of humankind as Conrad depicts the moral degradation of ivory traders in the Congo. One of the greatest parts of the book is Conrad¿s ability to demonstrate the little difference between the vanquished and the Vanquisher. He states that the subjugation of other people is ¿ nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others¿(pg 6 ). I definitely recommend this book for those who are searching for a heart-filled novel that through historical facts is able to encompass the truth of a time unknown to the world today. However, Conrad writing consist of a lot of descriptive language to depict the critical events and scenery of the book, so if you are not so comfortable with metaphors, similes and well detailed descriptions the book might be an uncomfortable read. This book deserved all five stars for its wonderful engaging diction and Conrad¿s ability to tell the truth. One of my favorite and one of the most noticeable aspect of Conrad's writing is his wide use of ambiguity. This however, can be irritating to readers who enjoy concise and straightforward work. I still highly recommend the book and believe that every student should have a chance to experience Conrad's point of view or the world of 1888. I also urge readers who find Heart of Darkness interesting to dig their hands into another of Conrad¿s great books ¿Youth¿ another quick read that involves Marlow the riverboat captain from Heart of Darkness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time just four months ago. I am only sixteen years old, and so far I have read the book four times. Joseph Conrad was (and still is) an amazing author. After reading this book, I purchased Apocolypse Now (film based on book) and enjoyed it quite a bit; though I have a lot of criticism for the film it is possibly the best way that any film could follow this amazing book. I love Conrad stories, and since Heart of Darkness, I have read Lord Jim, Secret Agent, Secret Sharer, Tales of Unrest, Narcissus, and Typhoon. Next I hope to grab a copy of Under Western Eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Probably one of the best in Conrad's writing. Truly outstanding Work!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book after seeing the movie Appocalypse Now, which this supposedly inspired. The definition B & N gives for a 2-star rating is Disappointing, and I think that is exactly what this book was for me. It wasn't exciting, wasn't interesting, and I certainly couldn't give a rat's behind about any of the characters. Conrad has written better and you should read better instead of wasting your time on this stale piece of bread.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At the onset of this novel, I didn¿t think I would like it at all, but I figured that it might get better as I went on. Not only did this book get no better than I initially thought, but each time I picked it up I had to pinch my arm to keep from falling fast asleep. Heart of Darkness is a sad excuse for a piece of classical literature, or for that matter, a piece of literature at all. For nearly one hundred pages, Joseph Conrad rambles on like a crazed mental patient about who knows what. It wouldn¿t have mattered if I read this book one time or one thousand times, I would never be able to understand what his purpose in writing Heart of Darkness exactly was. This book was nothing more than a jumbled up mess of random words, that when placed together, formed no valuable plot, but instead a completely useless book and an utter waste of my time. Not only would I not recommend this book, but I would strongly suggest against wasting your valuable time in reading this ¿book.¿