Analysis of the Joseph Conrad’s Novel “Heart of Darkness” Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


In his novel, “Heart of Darkness”, Joseph Conrad uses Marlow as the protagonist and at the same time authenticates his dynamic character. Marlow is an introspective youth in his early thirties. As an adventurous British man, he ends up in Congo, Africa, where he learns that darkness, evilness, and exploitation are some of the chief qualities of the human heart and the world.

Through interaction with Kurtz, Conrad explicitly discusses Marlow as a round character. Although he is a philosophic wise man, the thrilled experience in Africa forces Marlow to take a different course in terms of his character. By featuring Marlow, Conrad proves the dynamism of the human character as expounded next.

The analysis of Marlow’s character

Marlow is a curious and at the same time a skeptic man. Initially, his curiosity propels him to explore Africa where he lands in Congo. According to Marlow, Africa is a dark and civilized continent that is why he prefers England. He is so skeptic about Africa that he describes it as a “God-forsaken wilderness (Conrad 73). Nevertheless, he still goes ahead and sets out on a journey to the “dark continent” Africa (Conrad 65).

Furthermore, he never adheres to any remarks said by either his aunt or friends. He tends to filter out all the seemingly satisfactory remarks by the manager and brick maker. When he sets his foot in Africa, he does not like whatever he sees. Ranging from the lifestyle to the people, he instantly hates Africa. Nevertheless, he has to forge on for his survival.

Although he passes for an intelligent, eloquent, and philosophic person, the hardships and personal relationships with other people at the ivory company turns him into a sensitive and resentful man. On arrival in Africa, Marlow becomes fascinated and thrilled by the primitiveness of the people and their lifestyle.

His main aim is to meet Mr. Kurtz whom he eventually encounters. Comparing the horrifying life of Africa with the luxurious life in England, he wonders why people like Kurtz are so passionate about money and power. According to Marlow, virtuous life is celebrated than earning a few extra coins in a world filled with danger. More over, the encounter with Kurtz makes him resentful when he declares, “he is no idol of mine” (Conrad 90).

Kurtz had not only brainwashed the natives as a superior human being, but he had also turned them into slaves forcing them to worship him. However, according to Marlow the greed for power and riches pushed Kurtz to deprive people their rights. Therefore, as he progresses in his adventure his love for Kurtz turns into hatred.

Eventually he turns into a sensitive person especially because of darkness the human heart embodies. For instance, the lack of respect for human life by doctors at the company not only puzzles him but also propels him to be careful. There is a lot of disregard for human life while other people waste their precious life without feeling pain.

Before venturing into Africa, Marlow is an honest man but extraordinary circumstances force him to become cynical. He has no option but to lie in extreme circumstances. The first lie was when he branded the brick man as an influential yet Kurtz detested him. The lie was to enable him to get rivets for his broken boat and subsequently enable Kurtz to come out of the jungle.

From his own perspective, most people in the company wanted Kurtz dead, and his role was to help him out. In the second instance, Kurtz fiancée ‘intended’ believes her fiancé is a virtuous man with no evil heart. In addition, ‘intended’ believes everybody especially in Africa loves Kurtz, which is contrary to what Marlow encountered. Marlow refuses to expose the dark side of Kurtz because he does not want to break her heart. Therefore, although Marlow detest lies circumstances force him to lie for the betterment of human nature.

Marlow develops from a tough man into a sensitive and weary man. He dislikes the cruelty of the human heart, Belgians especially to Africans and the wilderness. Thus, his urge is to travel back to his luxurious land England. Unfortunately, his boat breaks down forcing him to lie to the brick man in order to get rivets for repairing.

Therefore, the misfortune at hand turns him from a truth and honest man into a liar and cynical person. Surprisingly he justifies all the vices he develops while in Africa as aforementioned in the previous text. On the other hand, although he dislikes inhumane persons he has respect for humanity because he struggles to save Kurtz life yet he disliked the way he handled Africans. Therefore, Conrad uses Marlow to condemn racism and promote humanity.


Conrad uses Marlow as a round character to fulfill the theme of humanity. His curiosity and intelligence motivates him to explore Africa where he experiences the dark side of life. Despite the extreme circumstances forcing him to acquire inhumane characters like lying, Marlow condemns the inhumanity in the Dark Continent, Africa. The availability of money, power together with hardship in Africa does not change him much.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of darkness. Ed. Paul Armstrong. UK: Blackwood’s magazines, 2005

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