Heart of Darkness was written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. The story is about a voyage to Africa, specifically through the Congo River into the Congo Free State, located in the heart of Africa. The author shows that there is little or no difference between the civilized and the savages, addressing the issue of imperialism and racism during the colonial era. The word “darkness” acquires a symbolic meaning in the novel as it is associated with darkness literally and figuratively at different levels of the novel especially its major themes, motives, and characters.
In the story, “darkness” is an artistic detail that is used to develop different themes. It represents the various aspects of reality, human nature, and lack of decency when human beings are faced with insurmountable challenges. First, the word “darkness” in the title appears to reflect the nature of the African continues. The author wants to show that taking up the voyage to Africa is like a journey to unknown because the continent was dark and unfamiliar to everybody. Africa was for many years described as a dark continent because it lagged behind in development and was not opened up. Going to the continent was like going into darkness because one did not know what to find there. Second, the word “darkness” is used in the title to reflect the moral side of the characters. Through the story, the dark and evil side of the protagonists becomes evident. The wickedness and brutality of the characters towards the others are only comparable to the dark side of humanity. Third, “darkness” symbolizes the impact of colonialism in Africa. Colonialist regarded Africa as a dark continent that needs liberalization. However, instead of bringing light to Africa and liberalizing the continent, they brought darkness through untold human suffering. Africa was also perceived as a dark continent because of the flooding missionaries who based their incursion on bringing light and Christianity to the savages of the Dark Continent. The author questions the legality of this claim by comparing the situation with the Roman conquerors concluding that there is no difference because both were “going at it blind” (Conrad 12), and what they brought was all about darkness.