In his novella Heart of Darkness (1899), Joseph Conrad through his principal narrator, Marlow, reflects upon the evils of the human condition as he has experienced it in Africa and Europe. Seen from the perspective of Conrad's nameless, objective persona, the evils that Marlow encountered on the expedition to the "heart of darkness," Kurtz's Inner Station on the banks of the snake-like Congo River, fall into two categories: the petty misdemeanors and trivial lies that are common- place, and the greater evils -- the grotesque acts society attributes to madmen. That the first class of malefaction is connected to the second is illustrated in the downfall of the story's secondary protagonist, the tragically deluded and hubristic Mr. Kurtz. The European idealist, believing the lies of his Company and of the economic imperialism that supports it, is unprepared for the test of character that the Congo imposes, and succumbs to the potential for the diabolical latent within every human consciousness.
Although numerous critics (including Johanna M. Smith, Peter Hyland, Herbert Klein, and Garrett Stewart) have drawn attention to how Marlow's lie to the Intended informs the whole preceding text and how that culminating scene with the Intended is connected to Marlow's initial impression of Brussels as a whited sepulchre (how appropriate in light of Belgian King Leopold II's hypocritical defense of his private company's rapacious exploitation of the ludicrously- named Congo Free State!), few have until recently focussed on how the lie affects the reader's reaction to Marlow as the protagonist and narrator of Conrad's Congo tale.
Answering questions which the dead man's Intended poses him reg...
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Rosmarin, Adena. "Darkening the Reader: Reader- Response Criticism and Heart of Darkness ." Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism , ed. Ross C. Murfin. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. Pp. 148-171.
Smith, Johanna M. Smith. "'Too Beautiful Altogether': Patriarchal Ideology in Heart of Darkness ." Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism , ed. Ross C. Murfin. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. Pp. 179-198.
Stewart, Garrett. "Lying as Dying in Heart of Darkness ." PMLA 95 (1980): 319- 331.
Trilling, Lionel. " Huckleberry Finn ." The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society . New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1950. Pp. 100-113.
Wright, Walter F. "Ingress to The Heart of Darkness ." Romance and Tragedy in Joseph Conrad . New York: Russell and Russell, 1966. Pp. 143-160.
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