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Prompts for Essay II Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
1. Critically analyze the ambiguity in Conrad’s novella? Why do you think the novelist deliberately keeps the message, themes and symbolism in his work so deeply equivocal and nearly inscrutable?
Prompts: How is racism depicted, and is there a clear side taken in the issue of racism? Is imperialism clearly shown as good or bad? Who is really ‘dark’: Africa or Europe? In fact, is there really a clear choice to be made between the two cultures? Which is better: hypocritical civilization or honest savagery? Are women forces of good or evil? Is Kurtz a hero or an anti-hero? If he does not fulfil his obligations to his own culture, how can he be a “remarkable man” (in Marlow’s words)? Are we to admire or abhor Kurtz? Who defines what is good and what is evil? Is it possible to unearth complete truth? In fact, what is the ‘real’ truth … from whose point of view?
2. What are the conflicts in Heart of Darkness? What types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional) are present in this novella?
Prompts: Consider using some of the conflicts already mentioned for Topic 1 (for example: man vs. woman, dark vs. light, white vs. black, civilization vs. savagery, good vs. evil, day vs. night, Africa vs. Europe, sanity vs. insanity, etc.)