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Kelley
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PostSubject: Discussion Questions   Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:48 pm

1. The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has claimed that Heart of Darkness is an “offensive and deplorable book” that “set[s] Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.” Achebe says that Conrad does not provide enough of an outside frame of reference to enable the novel to be read as ironic or critical of imperialism. Based on the evidence in the text, argue for or against Achebe’s assertion.

2. Discuss the importance of the Congo River in this narrative. Why does Marlow travel primarily by boat and seldom on land?

3. Marlow constantly uses vague and often redundant phrases like “unspeakable secrets” and “inconceivable mystery.” At other times, however, he is capable of powerful imagery and considerable eloquence. Why does Marlow use vague and “inconclusive” language so frequently?

4. Why does Heart of Darkness have two competing heroes? Make the case for either Marlow or Kurtz as the true “hero” of the book.

5. Discuss the framing story that structures Heart of Darkness. Why is it important to narrate Marlow in the act of telling his story?

6. Interpret Kurtz’s dying words (“The horror! The horror!”). What do they mean? What are the possible “horrors” to which he is referring? Why is Marlow the recipient of Kurtz’s last words?

7. Contrast Kurtz’s African mistress with his Intended. Are both negative portrayals of women? Describe how each functions in the narrative. Does it make any difference in your interpretation to know that Conrad supported the women’s suffrage movement?

8. Describe the use of “darkness” both in the book’s title and as a symbol throughout the text. What does darkness represent? Is its meaning constant or does it change?

9. How does physical illness relate to madness? How does one’s environment relate to one’s mental state in this book?

10. Why does Marlow lie to Kurtz’s fiancée about Kurtz’s last words? Why not tell her the truth, or tell her that Kurtz had no last words, rather than affirming her sentimental and mundane ideas?
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Kelley
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PostSubject: Re: Discussion Questions   Tue Jun 19, 2007 1:22 am

1. The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has claimed that Heart of Darkness is an “offensive and deplorable book” that “set[s] Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.” Achebe says that Conrad does not provide enough of an outside frame of reference to enable the novel to be read as ironic or critical of imperialism. Based on the evidence in the text, argue for or against Achebe’s assertion.

I have to agree. I didn't really see that there was any arguement against imperialism in the novel. Instead it seemed to ramble on and on, never giving quality to the natives, or speaking out against the treatment of them and their land.

2. Discuss the importance of the Congo River in this narrative. Why does Marlow travel primarily by boat and seldom on land?

3. Marlow constantly uses vague and often redundant phrases like “unspeakable secrets” and “inconceivable mystery.” At other times, however, he is capable of powerful imagery and considerable eloquence. Why does Marlow use vague and “inconclusive” language so frequently?

4. Why does Heart of Darkness have two competing heroes? Make the case for either Marlow or Kurtz as the true “hero” of the book.

I didn't see that either was a hero. I didn't really think that there was muchc of a story line. Neither character actually realized the importance of their role, or the wretchedness of the ideals of the Company. Neither was a hero.

5. Discuss the framing story that structures Heart of Darkness. Why is it important to narrate Marlow in the act of telling his story?

6. Interpret Kurtz’s dying words (“The horror! The horror!”). What do they mean? What are the possible “horrors” to which he is referring? Why is Marlow the recipient of Kurtz’s last words?

We don't even actually know that they were his last words, since Marlow left the room and one of the natives stayed with Kurtz as he died. But assuming that they are we can only hope that he is refering to his own behavior. Although, it could as easily be said that he is refering to Africa.

7. Contrast Kurtz’s African mistress with his Intended. Are both negative portrayals of women? Describe how each functions in the narrative. Does it make any difference in your interpretation to know that Conrad supported the women’s suffrage movement?

8. Describe the use of “darkness” both in the book’s title and as a symbol throughout the text. What does darkness represent? Is its meaning constant or does it change?

9. How does physical illness relate to madness? How does one’s environment relate to one’s mental state in this book?

10. Why does Marlow lie to Kurtz’s fiancée about Kurtz’s last words? Why not tell her the truth, or tell her that Kurtz had no last words, rather than affirming her sentimental and mundane ideas?

Kindness
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