Joseph Conrad led an adventurous life and spent alot of his time at sea, most of his novels and short stories are loosely based on some of his experinces. His inspiration for Heart of Darkness came from his travels to the African Congo, where he witnessed the horrors of slavery and the grim realities of Imperialism. These experinces reflect throughout the book and give it a haunting realism.
Now to the synopsis: Heart of Darkness is the tale of a man named Marlow, a seaman and wanderer. It is told through his eyes and from his POV using the 1st person narrative except for the begining where an unamed narrator and couple of men(Marlow included)gather in a boat on the river Thames and Marlow proceeds to to tell the story of his travels in the Congo and experinces in what he describes as the dark heart of the world - the African Congo(at that time it was still pretty much a black mark on the map with a few british colonies tucked in and out).
He begins his journey on a French Man of War hitching a ride towards the congo where he has been hired to captain an old steam boat docked at mouth of the Congo river just near the central Ivory station run by the British.
When he arrives at the station he is disgusted by the attiudes of his fellow Brits as they seem too preoccupied with Ivory and the money that can make from it, while exploiting the natives for the said purposes. He soon finds himself Isolated from "the pilgrims" and focuses on fixing the steamboat which has been neglected since the previous skipper was killed. Marlow hears mention of a man named Kurtz, an enigmatic Ivory poacher who runs a station in the furthurmost outskirts of the Congo.
Soon word comes in that Kurtz is ill and may die if help is not sent and its our man Marlow who is palced with the task. So Marlow and crew(a hand full of pilgrims and some native canibals on a strict diet of hippo meat) are heading up river in search of Kurtz all the while Marlow is becoming more disconnected and removed from his fellow pilgrims. Marlow sees something in the natives that he doesnt see in the pilgrims - humanity. They may be cannibals but at least they have restraint, Marlow thinks, actually Marlow thinks alot, he starts to wonder about Kurtz.
Finally they reach Kurtz's station and to their horror severed heads are on display out front, Kurtz is being worshipped by the local natives who look upon him as some sort of god. Marlow confronts Kurtz and struggles to understand what has happened. The narrative unfolds with Marlows reflections of Kurtz and their final moments together, Marlow realizes the man who was once Kurtz has become a hollow sham, a mind that was perfectly clear and intelligent but a soul that was mad. Kurtz leaves his legacy with Marlow, a memory that will scare him forever.
Now to the review: I am quite partial to this book and the author, Conrad had a style of writing most experimental for his time and Heart of Darkness is no exception. It is a journey into consiousness and the soul of man but this is only my interuptation. Heart of Darkness must be anaylized on a much greater spectrum, it's ambiguity only adds to the mystery of the plot and keeps the reader hanging on words. Without a doubt this book is a classic and it is still very realative now even a century on. If you are looking to broaden your horizions and you want to read something deep and thought provoking, this classic novel is for you. Just make sure to get that dictionary out - you're going to need it.
Also see Apocalypse Now, the motion picture starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, which was based on Heart of Darkness.
Title: Heart of Darkness