Heart of Darkness Heart of Darkness, novella by\u00a0Conrad\u00a0that was first published in 1899 in Blackwood\u2019s Edinburgh Magazine\u00a0than in Conrad\u2019s Youth: and Two Other Stories (1902). Heart of Darkness examines the horrors of Western colonialism, depicting it as a phenomenon that tarnishes not only the lands and peoples it exploits but also those\u00a0within the\u00a0West who advance it. Although garnering an initially lackluster reception, Conrad\u2019s semiautobiographical tale has gone on to become one among\u00a0the foremost\u00a0widely analyzed works of English literature. Critics\u00a0haven't\u00a0always treated Heart of Darkness favorably, rebuking its dehumanizing representation of colonized peoples and its dismissive treatment of girls. Nonetheless, Heart of Darkness has endured, and today it stands as a Modernist masterpiece directly engaged with postcolonial realities. Summary Heart of Darkness tells a story within a story. The novella begins with a gaggle\u00a0of passengers aboard\u00a0a ship\u00a0floating on the\u00a0Thames\u00a0.\u00a0one among\u00a0them, Charlie Marlow, relates to his fellow seafarers an experience of his that\u00a0happened\u00a0on another river altogether\u2014the\u00a0Congo\u00a0in Africa. Marlow\u2019s story begins in what he calls the \u201csepulchral city,\u201d somewhere in Europe. There \u201cthe Company\u201d\u2014an unnamed organization running a colonial enterprise\u00a0within the\u00a0Belgian Congo\u2014appoints him captain of a river steamer. He sets out for Africa optimistic of what he will find. But his expectations are quickly soured. From\u00a0the instant\u00a0he arrives,\u00a0he's\u00a0exposed to the evil of imperialism, witnessing the violence it inflicts upon the African people it exploits. As he proceeds, he begins\u00a0to listen to\u00a0tell of\u00a0a person\u00a0named Kurtz\u2014a colonial agent who is supposedly unmatched in his ability\u00a0to acquire\u00a0ivory from the continent\u2019s interior.\u00a0consistent with\u00a0rumor Kurtz has fallen ill (and perhaps mad as well), thereby jeopardizing the Company\u2019s entire venture within the\u00a0Congo. Marlow is given command of his steamer and a crew of Europeans and Africans to man it, the latter of whom Conrad shamelessly stereotypes as \u201ccannibals.\u201d As he penetrates deeper into the jungle, it becomes clear that his surroundings are impacting him psychologically: his journey isn't\u00a0only into a geographical \u201cheart of darkness\u201d but his own psychic interior\u2014and perhaps into the darkened psychic interior of Western culture\u00a0also. After encountering many obstacles along the way, Marlow\u2019s steamer finally makes it to Kurtz. Kurtz has taken command over a tribe of natives who he now employs to conduct raids on\u00a0the encompassing\u00a0regions.\u00a0the person\u00a0is clearly ill, physically, and psychologically. Marlow has got to\u00a0threaten him\u00a0to travel\u00a0alongside them, so the intent is Kurtz on executing his \u201cimmense plans.\u201d because the\u00a0steamer turns back the way it came, Marlow\u2019s crew fires upon the group of indigenous people previously under Kurtz\u2019s sway,\u00a0which incorporates\u00a0a queen-figure described by Conrad with much eroticism and as exoticism. Kurtz dies on the journey\u00a0copy\u00a0the river but not before revealing to Marlow the terrifying glimpse of human evil he\u2019d been exposed to. \u201cThe horror! The horror!\u201d he tells Marlow before dying. Marlow almost dies\u00a0also, but he makes it back to the sepulchral city to recuperate.\u00a0he's\u00a0disdainful of the petty tribulations of\u00a0Western culture\u00a0that appear\u00a0to occupy everyone around him. As he heals,\u00a0he's\u00a0visited by various characters from Kurtz\u2019s former life\u2014the life he led before finding the dark interior of himself in Africa. A year after his return to Europe, Marlow visits Kurtz\u2019s partner. She is represented\u2014as several of Heart of Darkness\u2019s female characters are\u2014as naively sheltered from the awfulness of the planet, a state that Marlow hopes to preserve. When she asks about Kurtz\u2019s final words, Marlow lies: \u201cyour name,\u201d he tells her. Marlow\u2019s story ends there. Heart of Darkness itself ends\u00a0because the\u00a0narrator,\u00a0one among\u00a0Marlow\u2019s audience, sees a mass of brooding clouds gathering on the horizon\u2014what seems to him to be \u201cheart of an immense darkness.\u201d Reception Heart of Darkness was published in 1902 as a novella in Youth: And Two Other Stories,\u00a0a set\u00a0including\u00a0two other stories by Conrad. But the text first appeared in 1899 in Blackwood\u2019s Edinburgh Magazine, a literary monthly on its thousandth issue, to which its editor invited Conrad to contribute. Conrad was hesitant\u00a0to try to do so, perhaps\u00a0permanently\u00a0reason\u2014although Heart of Darkness received acclaim among his own literary circle, the story\u00a0did not\u00a0secure any\u00a0quite\u00a0popular success. That remained the case even when\u00a0it had been\u00a0published in 1902; Heart of Darkness received\u00a0the smallest amount of attention out of the three stories included,\u00a0and therefore the\u00a0collection was eponymously named after another\u00a0one among\u00a0the stories altogether. Conrad didn\u2019t live long enough\u00a0to ascertain\u00a0it become\u00a0a well-liked\u00a0success. Heart of Darkness first began garnering academic attention\u00a0within the\u00a01940 and \u201950s, at a time when literary studies were dominated by a psychologically oriented approach to the interpretation of literature. Heart of Darkness was, accordingly, understood as a universalist exploration of human interiority\u2014of its corruptibility, its inaccessibility,\u00a0and therefore the\u00a0darkness inherent\u00a0thereto. Something was lacking in these critiques, of course: any quite an examination of the novella\u2019s message about colonialism or its use of Africa and its people as an indistinct backdrop against which to explore the complexities of the white psyche. That changed\u00a0within the\u00a01970s when Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author of Things\u00a0disintegrate, leveled an excoriating critique against Heart of Darkness for the way it dehumanized African people. Achebe\u2019s critique opened the doors for further postcolonial analyses of the work, was followed by those from other academic perspectives: feminist readings, for instance, revealed\u00a0an identical\u00a0quiet effacement done unto its female subjects. Although Heart of Darkness has remained on many syllabi since the 1970s, it now occupies\u00a0a way\u00a0more controversial position\u00a0within the\u00a0Western canon: as a story that, while leveling critiques against colonialism that were novel for its time, and which was formative for the emergence of modernism in literature, remains\u00a0deeply and inexcusably entrenched\u00a0within the\u00a0white male perspective.] Analysis On\u00a0the foremost\u00a0superficial level, Heart of Darkness\u00a0is often understood through its semiautobiographical relationship to Conrad\u2019s\u00a0real world.\u00a0very similar to\u00a0his protagonist Marlow, Conrad\u2019s career as a merchant marine also took him up the\u00a0Congo.\u00a0and far\u00a0like Marlow, Conrad was profoundly\u00a0suffering from\u00a0the human depravity he witnessed on his boat tour of European colonialism in Africa. But it\u2019s overly reductive to boil Heart of Darkness\u00a0right down to\u00a0the commonalities it shares with Conrad\u2019s own experiences.\u00a0it might\u00a0be useful\u00a0to look at\u00a0its elements crucial to the emergence of modernism:\u00a0for instance, Conrad\u2019s use of multiple narrators; his couching\u00a0of 1\u00a0narrative within another; the story\u2019s achronological unfolding; and as would become increasingly clear\u00a0because the\u00a020th century progressed, his almost post-structuralist distrust\u00a0within the\u00a0stability of language. At\u00a0an equivalent\u00a0time, his story pays homage to the Victorian tales he grew\u00a0abreast of, evident\u00a0within the\u00a0popular heroism so central to his story\u2019s narrative.\u00a0therein\u00a0sense, Heart of Darkness straddles the boundary between a waning Victorian sensibility and a waxing Modernist one. One of\u00a0the foremost\u00a0resoundingly Modernist elements of Conrad\u2019s work lies\u00a0during this\u00a0quite\u00a0early post-structuralist treatment of language\u2014his insistence on the inherent inability of words\u00a0to precise\u00a0the important,\u00a0altogether\u00a0of its horrific truth. Marlow\u2019s journey is\u00a0filled with\u00a0encounters with things that are \u201cunspeakable,\u201d with uninterpretable words, and with a world that's\u00a0eminently \u201cinscrutable.\u201d\u00a0during this\u00a0way, language fails time and time again\u00a0to try to what\u00a0it's\u00a0meant to do\u2014to communicate. It\u2019s a phenomenon best summed up when Marlow tells his audience that \u201cit is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one\u2019s existence\u2014that which makes its truth, its meaning\u2014its subtle and penetrating essence\u2026 We live, as we dream\u2014alone.\u201d Kurtz\u2014as \u201celoquent\u201d as he maybe\u2014can\u2019t even adequately communicate the terrifying darkness he observed around him.\u201cThe horror! The horror!\u201d is all he can say. Some critics have surmised that a part of\u00a0Heart of Darkness\u2019s mass appeal comes from this ambiguity of language\u2014from the\u00a0play, it gives its readers to interpret. Others posit this as\u00a0an excellent\u00a0weakness of the text, viewing Conrad\u2019s inability\u00a0to call\u00a0things as an unseemly quality\u00a0during a\u00a0writer who\u2019s\u00a0alleged to\u00a0be\u00a0one among\u00a0the greats. Perhaps\u00a0this is often\u00a0itself a testament to\u00a0the guts\u00a0of Darkness\u2019s breadth of interpretability. Examining Heart of Darkness from a postcolonial perspective has given\u00a0thanks to\u00a0more derisive critiques. As Achebe put it, Conrad was a \u201cthoroughgoing racist,\u201d one who dehumanized Africans to\u00a0use them as a backdrop against which to explore the white man\u2019s interiority. Achebe is right: although Conrad rebukes the evils of colonialism, he does little to dismantle the racism that undergirds such a system, instead positing the indigenous people of Africa as little\u00a0quite\u00a0a part of\u00a0the natural environment. This work has been\u00a0delayed\u00a0together\u00a0of the West\u2019s most insightful books on the evils of European imperialism in Africa, and yet it fails to assign any particularity to African people themselves. Feminist discourse has offered similar critiques, that Conrad has flattened his female characters\u00a0almost like\u00a0the way he\u2019s done so\u00a0together with his\u00a0African ones. Women are deployed not as multidimensional beings, but as signifiers undistinguished from\u00a0the sector\u00a0of other signifiers that\u00a0structure\u00a0the text.\u00a0they're\u00a0shells emptied of all particularity and meaning,\u00a0such\u00a0Conrad can fill them with\u00a0the importance\u00a0he sees fit: the African queen becomes the embodiment of darkened nature and an eroticized symbol of its atavistic allure; Kurtz\u2019s Intended, meanwhile,\u00a0is simply\u00a0a signifier for the illusory reality of the society that Marlow is trying to guard\u00a0against the invading darkness of\u00a0attribute. Neither woman is interiorized, and neither is named\u2014a rhetorical strategy that seems less about Conrad illustrating the failures of language than it does about him privileging his masculine voice above any possible feminine ones. Much contemporary analysis\u2014the aforementioned postcolonial and feminist critiques included\u2014is centered not on the text itself, but on other commentaries of the text, thereby elucidating the way that discussions in academia might unwittingly perpetuate a number of\u00a0the work\u2019s more problematic elements. Thus, Heart of Darkness is occupying an ever-changing position\u00a0within the\u00a0literary canon:\u00a0not\u00a0as an elucidatory text that reveals the depths of human depravity, but as an artifact\u00a0that's\u00a0the merchandise\u00a0of such depravity and which reproduces it in its\u00a0title. The question then becomes: Does\u00a0the guts\u00a0of Darkness still belong\u00a0within the\u00a0West\u2019s literary canon? And if so, will it always?