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Books Read in 2017-2018 > Heart of Darkness - Spoilers

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the book freely!


message 2: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments I did not know that the film "Apocalypse Now" was based on this book until after I looked it up after I read it.

Throughout reading I kept on feeling that I have come across a similar story before, as I got closer I came to think that it seemed similar to the film, and then when I came across the dialogue, "The horror. The horror," I came to the sudden realization that it was an adaption.

Before reading this book did anyone else know that "Apocalypse Now" was an adaption?


message 3: by John (new)

John Yes, I did. That was my reason for wanting to read the novel.


message 4: by Lia (new)

Lia My (elder) brother had to read this for Eng. 12 and moaned incessantly about it, by the time I was made to read it in the 12th grade, I knew I was required to hate it before I start.

Except it turned into one of my favorite books ever. I still have my (well, his) school copy, which is now falling apart. I don’t know how many times I’ve reread, discussed, debated (defended) this book.

I saw the movie after reading the novella, I think my whole family decided to hate the movie just to support my brother’s sense of victimization. To be fair, I thought the movie was too long (or my attention span isn’t built for that kind of long “experimental” movies.) Whereas the novella is blessedly short. (I finished reading it again in one sitting.)


message 5: by Lia (new)

Lia Speaking of my poor book that is falling apart (the defective spine will not hold the pages together any longer), I thought maybe the physical book learned the lesson from its content:

“I respected the fellow. Yes; I respected his collars, his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. His appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser’s dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance. That’s backbone


It chooses to have no backbone over forced exploitation! Good boye book!


message 6: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "My (elder) brother had to read this for Eng. 12 and moaned incessantly about it, by the time I was made to read it in the 12th grade, I knew I was required to hate it before I start.

Except it tur..."


Why did your brother hate it?


message 7: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "My (elder) brother had to read this for Eng. 12 and moaned incessantly about it, by the time I was made to read it in the 12th grade, I knew I was required to hate it before I start.

Except it tur..."


Why is it one of your favorite books?


message 8: by Lia (last edited Jul 02, 2018 06:40AM) (new)

Lia Sorry MJD, I’m a horrible conversationist, I posted a reply about my brother and Heart of Darkness, but then got embarrassed and deleted it.

I didn’t actually like Heart of Darkness at first, but it’s like my literary Rome: everything else I fall in love with eventually leads me back to Heart of Darkness. T.S. Eliot, modernism, Tolstoy, even Homer. I’d be confounded with the complexity of a literary master piece, struggle to comprehend it, and then “realize” I first encountered something like that in Heart of Darkness. Almost every single time.

Also, on a personal, psychological level, I relate to that disillusionment, that crisis of identity, loss of faith in national identity, in possibility of culture, in humanism. Heart of Darkness is one of several tales that depicted Marlow’s growth, from youth to maturity. His search for excitements, a chance to prove himself, his romanticism, clashing head-on with hollow, corrupt reality, with everything he idealized falling apart. I bet a lot of people who grew up in the modern world also experienced that. Conrad offers no simplistic solution to lull readers into complacency, instead, we get a complex, ambiguous attempt to give that kind of confusion a narrative, a shape.

Which reminds me of an older and wiser Odysseus repeatedly reconstructing and renarrating his adventures after a series of traumatic triumphs and blunders. That’s an ancient myth; this is a recent modern novella. It seems we’re both radically alienated from our idea of humanity, and at the same time, had always been continuous with it.


message 9: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "Sorry MJD, I’m a horrible conversationist, I posted a reply about my brother and Heart of Darkness, but then got embarrassed and deleted it.

I didn’t actually like Heart of Darkness at first, but ..."


I completely understand you saying that this book is your "literary Rome." I have a similar view of the works of Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoyevsky; who not only created a real lasting love for literature within me, but also act as a lens which I tend to view other literary works (case in point, as I am reading the KJV Bible at this time I keep on finding themes that I encountered through Camus).


message 10: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "My (elder) brother had to read this for Eng. 12 and moaned incessantly about it, by the time I was made to read it in the 12th grade, I knew I was required to hate it before I start.

Except it tur..."


Since you said that you have debated and defended this book I was curious if you could share some points that you have come across from people that did not like the book.


message 11: by Lia (new)

Lia I think the most common accusation I've personally encountered is that it's difficult, confusing, or boring (because it's a school text and I know many students who would rather be doing something else...)

More "learned" readers tend to object to the apparent racism, Achebe's scathing critique is cited often enough (to the point where it's now like a meme, many people who haven't read Conrad OR Achebe seem to feel justified in dismissing the text based on a vague awareness of Achebe's complaint.)

Another common objection is Conrad's misogyny (?) or at least, absence of strong female characters in all his texts (but I haven't read all his books.)

I wonder how readers feel about these charges?


message 12: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "I think the most common accusation I've personally encountered is that it's difficult, confusing, or boring (because it's a school text and I know many students who would rather be doing something ..."

Here is the essay from Achebe: http://kirbyk.net/hod/image.of.africa...


message 13: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Lia wrote: "I think the most common accusation I've personally encountered is that it's difficult, confusing, or boring (because it's a school text and I know many students who would rather be doing something ..."

I can understand where Achebe is coming from when he says, "Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as "the other world," the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant beastiality," and therefor racist. But I disagree.

I think that the descriptions of the strangeness of the people and place can be explained as follows:

1) Going along with "fish out of water" tropes in which a character's description of the strangeness of things is meant to show how much of a stranger there are. For example, in the film "The Little Mermaid" the protagonist talks about the strangeness of surface world stuff, but it seems obvious that the writers of the film did not mean to say that the surface world was strange but rather that she was the one that was "strange" in her ignorance and misconceptions. In the same way some of the descriptions in the book (i.e. talking about cannibals that are sad to see a dead body buried rather than eaten) can be displays of ignorance and misconceptions of the character (i.e. there is no clear evidence given that they eat people, and them being upset about not eating a dead body could be a misconception driven by the character's ignorance).

2) I think that the format of the telling of the tale should be remembered. That is, it is a sailor telling a tale of another sailor. That is, it could be a tale that was exaggerated and sensationalized in a stereotypical sailor tale-tale fashion, which was then further exaggerated and sensationalized by another sailor in a re-telling to the reader. I don't think that accuracy or nuance should be expected too much in such a format.


message 14: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Since this book deals with themes of colonialism I would recommend the non-fiction book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond for those interested in this theme.

I am about done and it is very interesting. Jared Diamond takes a deterministic view of societal development through history via geography. That is, that geographic factors (availability of potential good crop plants and domestic animals, availability of potential farm land, etc.) have determined the trends of history where some societies have outpaced others.

The idea that certain people are smarter and more creative and/or more violent and greedier is discounted, and the idea of cultural norms being determinate are discounted as well (he does say that different societies have formed different cultures, and these cultures have different things to offer in terms of societal success, but he points out that these cultures are determined by geographic factors, making the geographic factors the foundational factors in the case of cultural differences).


message 15: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments MJD wrote: "Since this book deals with themes of colonialism I would recommend the non-fiction book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond for those inte..."

Speaking of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies in connection to this book, one thing that I found illuminating was that the kind of geographic/environmental conditions that European colonist found in central Africa may relate to this book.

That is, while this book describes central Africa as an alien and hostile world using forbidding language, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies talks about how the conditions there were very ill-suited for for Europeans (in terms of diseases and such that they found there that they were not use to). Thus, central Africa could have got a bad rap in the consciousness of Westerners primarily due to environmental factors (and not so much due to the people being any worse there than some other place better suited for would-be Western European colonists).


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

MJD, that's a really interesting idea. I've read HOD twice and will have to teach it in a class I'm TAing this semester. I'm ashamed to admit, I don't enjoy this work and tried to convince the professor to replace it with Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Your idea about the environmental factors prejudicing the Europeans against Central Africa sheds a new light on the novel for me. It kind of seems like an extreme and devastating case of "judging a book by its cover." Their first impression of Africa was that it is inhospitable and full of strange illnesses, so "naturally" the people must be dangerous, too. But first impressions are often wrong, and the colonizers' definitely was. Maybe my impression of Heart of Darkness is wrong, too. Thank you all for the insight!


message 17: by MJD (new)

MJD | 331 comments Makayla wrote: "MJD, that's a really interesting idea. I've read HOD twice and will have to teach it in a class I'm TAing this semester. I'm ashamed to admit, I don't enjoy this work and tried to convince the prof..."

My pleasure. Good luck in class (from my experience in the world of education - first by leading class discussions while getting my Masters in America and now teaching English as a second langue in China - it can be hard to get the students talking sometimes).


message 18: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 3979 comments Mod
I finally finished this book. It took me forever to read it. I thought it was long and tedious. Glad it's over!


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