Heart of Darkness & Other Stories

Heart of Darkness & Other Stories by Joseph Conrad – Reviewed by Guy Portman

Heart of Darkness

{Contains Some Spoilers}

This Wordsworth Classics compilation consists of three nautical themed tales. The first of which is the short story Youth. In Youth the middle-aged narrator, Charles Marlow, recounts his voyage as a young man aboard The Judea, a vessel carrying coal in the Far East. The voyage ends in disaster.

Also narrated by Marlow, Heart of Darkness is a novella about a steamship sailing up a river through the jungles of The Congo, in search of Mr Kurtz, a mysterious ivory trader, who has reportedly turned native. The terrain is unforgiving, the cannibalistic natives unpredictable, and the greed of the ivory-infatuated colonisers unremitting. Marlow, who becomes increasingly obsessed with Mr Kurtz, eventually finds him mortally ill, living in a house, surrounded by heads on pikes. Heart of Darkness is a deeply disturbing, thought-provoking, complex, multi-layered story, about what can occur when man exists outside of civilisation’s constraints.

In The End of the Tether, a maritime story set in South East Asia, the protagonist, Captain Whalley, is a widowed ship owner, who sells his vessel in order to raise money for his daughter. Whalley invests his last remaining money in the Sofala, an old steamer owned by its dishonest chief engineer, Massey. This is a story about deceit and the virtues and vices of man, a recurring theme for Conrad. The End of the Tether is a slow moving, but increasingly engrossing story that culminates in a surprising revelation.

Conrad utilises an ornate prose style to adeptly weave these challenging, atmospheric and insightful stories, which are concise by the standards of the period in which they were written.

2 Comments

  • I remember reading Heart of Darkness a few years ago. I found it quite difficult to get through personally, as some of the views etc were a little challenging for a contemporary reader. Though I did enjoy the narrative style overall, so perhaps I should read some of the other stories you talk about here.

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