SparkNotes is a good guide for Heart of Darkness. I decided to read it since I’m no longer in school and thus no longer have anyone with whom I can discuss and analyze a novel with. Sucks :(. Anyways the analyses presented for the chapters were great. They did not go totally in depth; they just tackled the major points. I especially like the new addition at the back that gives tips on how to write a literary analysis. Well done! It took me 4 years of college to almost get it right so I hope high-schoolers pick this up and read the tips at the back. This guide is great for students, especially those who did not read the novel but have less than an hour to prepare for an in-class discussion.
Oh my gosh, where to begin?
I will start with the obvious: this is a great book. Despite its portrayal of Africans and how the African characters are used in the text, I do consider this book to be a classic mostly because of the depth, morals, and beliefs that it explores and counters. Conrad is a great storyteller and writer. The structure of this story is crazy and I love it. I love how Conrad/Marlow drops subtle hints of what’s to come at the beginning and then reveals what they mean as the story progresses. Sometimes the hints are so subtle that you don’t even notice them, if you are not reading carefully.
Heart of Darkness is basically an autobiography of sorts told by Marlow while aboard the yacht Nellie on which he reclines with his friends. One of the friends is an unnamed narrator who tells the story which frames the Heart of Darkness. This narrator provides the backdrop and situation necessary for Marlow’s tale to be told. The other friends aboard the yacht — the Lawyer, the Accountant, and the Director of Companies (captain and host) — are all respectable gentlemen with distinguished professions who do not say much throughout the story but contribute their stance on what Marlow says by their silence. The unnamed narrator is used to voice their beliefs and concerns. Throughout the story, they are only referred to by their professions and not by name because they represent the audience to which Conrad directs his story. It is obvious that Marlow is not totally a part of this group because he is given a name and further by the way he sits. While everyone else reclines on the yacht, Marlow sits as if he is a Buddha, the only enlightened one in the group.