Heart Of Darkness: Summary Notes - Study Guide

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Heart Of Darkness

Study Guide


Frame Narrative

Raises central issues developed in Marlow's narrative through the frame

Positions the reader to sympathise with Marlow's viewpoints

Exterior and Interior Characterisation

Exterior: provided by the frame narrator

Interior: Inner thoughts and Motivation (1st person)

Links Marlow's emotional development and inner journey through the 'darkness' with his external appearance

Readers trace his ideological development as it corresponds with a manipulation of their own attitudes and values.

Exterior Characterisation of Kurtz

Information must be gleaned from the narrations of other characters

The almost excessive level of separation between reader and character allows readers the distance to reflect objectively on Kurtz' actions.

Readers are overtly manipulated through a series of different Kurtz exteriors in order to generate a level of understanding of the character.

The character of Kurtz, as the personification of colonisation, is barely exposed to readers, to guard against resistant readings of the text

Ironic Implications of the Frame

The frame narrator is led to perceive him as a Buddha, yet the only enlightenment he has found is in darkness

Establishes a realistic backdrop and moral benchmark for Marlow's tale

The Glory of England

Saving the savages

Restraint and Efficiency

Manipulates the reader's response to characters, situations, conflicts and issues

The different levels of narration add to and contradict each other

Through these continual contrasts, readers are manipulated and forced to question their own attitudes towards colonisation.

Frame Narrator vs. Marlow

The frame narrator and Marlow come from the dominant European discourse; however there is a sense of antithesis in their different attitudes towards colonisation and imperialism.

The frame narrator details the glory of England

Marlow reminds us that it 'has been one of the dark places of the earth.'

The opposition serves to heighten the contrast and creates an immediate conflict...