Consider the importance of setting in any one text – The Heart of Darkness

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Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness is not a story without its settings; the nightmarish journey of Charlie Marlowe (our narrator) into the unknown where we find ourselves traveling by boat to and in the Belgium Congo in 1890. The use of this setting shows and explains the exploitation of a colonial country and challenges the basic ethical question of good and evil of mankind. Marlowe’s setting is perfectly placed to give the reader a glimpse of the political environment of the Congo and the African exploration that was quite popular in Conrad’s day.

Although most of the action in The Heart of Darkness is set in the uncivilized jungles of the African Congo, the tale itself is narrated by Charlie, an experienced sailor aboard a pleasure boat with four other Englishmen as they lounge on the deck at the mouth of the Thames River outside London. Charlie sits Buddha-like to narrate his story. Here, the reader gets a glimpse of the Thames as a mighty river at sunset with the gauzy radiant lights of civilized London, which reflect on the river’s surface. This is represented where both the time of day and the spot are significant. It’s sunset. As the tale turns gloomier, images of darkness get more and more pervasive. The evening grows gradually darker, so that by the time Marlow finishes, late in the night, his listeners have literally been enveloped in darkness.

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