Heart of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness Part II Questions

Comprehension Questions

1. At the Central Station, continued (46-49). (“One evening as I was lying flat…”)-What does Marlow learn by overhearing the manager and his uncle? What do they say about Kurtz and what is happening upriver? How does Marlow respond to this talk about Kurtz? What views did Kurtz hold about the nature of the colonial project?

2. Note what Marlow says on the bottom of the paragraph that begins “I was broad awake…” about "the profound darkness of its heart." Watch for appearances of some version (such as this one) of the book's title.

3. (“In a few days the Eldorado Expedition…”)-What happens to the Eldorado Exploring Expedition and how does Marlow respond?

4. The Journey Up the River (49-53). How does Marlow describe the river?-(“Going up that river was like travelling back…”) Why does this cause him to insult his companions on the boat in the Thames and thus to create another break in the narrative? How does Marlow go on to describe the journey as "we penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness"?-(“I beg your pardon…”)

5. What does Marlow think of his crew?-(“The earth seemed unearthly…”)Who are they? What does he think of the fireman?

6. Approaching the Inner Station (53-63). (“Some fifty miles below…”)-What does Marlow find when the boat stops for wood? What is the value of the book, according to Marlow? What does he find written in it? How far is the boat from the inner station?

7. (“Towards the evening of the second day…”)-What happens the next morning in the fog? How does Marlow describe the cry? How do the responses of the White Europeans and the Black Africans differ? How does the head-man of the African crew respond? Look closely at how Marlow responds to the idea that the Africans are hungry? What attribute does he find in the Africans that he does not find in the Europeans?

8. (“Two pilgrims were quarrelling…”)-What is the effect of having Marlow say "The approach to this Kurtz [. . .] was beset by as many dangers as though he had been an enchanted princess sleeping in a fabulous castle"? Analyze this use of figurative language.

9. (“I went forward and ordered…”)-What happens as the boat approaches the inner station? How do the pilgrims respond to the attack? (“I was looking down at the sounding-pole..”)-What does the helmsman do and what is the result? How does Marlow scare off the attackers and how does he interpret their wail? What does Marlow think has happened to Kurtz?

10. Kurtz Interlude (63-67). (“Two pilgrims were quarrelling in hurried whispers…”)-Why is Marlow so disappointed by the idea that Kurtz is dead? What things come to his mind as he thinks of meeting Kurtz and what followed? ("I laid the ghost of his gifts at last with a lie…”)-Pay special attention to the "girl" and the "lie" for future reference. What did Kurtz look like? What is meant by his reference to "My Intended"? What seems to be going on in Marlow's statement that "The wilderness [. . .] had [. . .] sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation"? What sort of picture of Kurtz do we get from this interlude on him? Why is Marlow so bothered by Kurtz?

11. (midway through “I laid the ghost of his gifts…”)-What is the report and what does Marlow think of it? What is the argument of the report? How is the report modified by the handwritten statement at the end? What sort of dancing is Marlow taking about? What have we learned about Kurtz so far? Why does Marlow also think again about the dead helmsman (end of paragraph)?

12. At the Inner Station (67-71). (“Poor fool! If I had only…” to next paragraph)-What does Marlow do with the helmsman's body? Why? What do the pilgrims assume has happened to Kurtz and the station?

13. ("The manager stood by the wheel…” and “Through my glasses I saw”)-What does Marlow see as he looks at the inner station through his binoculars? Keep this description in mind. Consider drawing the descriptions you read.

14. (“His aspect reminded me of something…”)-Who is the first person Marlow meets? Why is he describes as "a harlequin"? Is this the sort of person we (or Marlow) would expect to meet here? How does the fact that he is a Russian help to solve the mystery of the book? (From here on he will be referred to as the Russian.)

15. (“When the manager, escorted by the pilgrims…”)-Why, according to the Russian, did the natives attack the boat? What does he think of Kurtz? What are some phrases that express his feelings?

Analytic Questions

1. Find two pieces of evidence from Section 2 (by means of quotations, passages, characterizations, etc.) that support your motif. Explain in a thoughtful way how your motif is present in Heart of Darkness and helps drive its ultimate meaning in the form of a theme or purpose. Also, consider how it connects to other motifs.

  1. The corrupting influence of power

  2. Man’s inhumanity to man

  3. Insanity

  4. Racial inequality

  5. Nature as adversary

  6. Human nature

  1. White vs. Black (color imagery)

2. Discuss the significance surrounding the book Marlow finds in the hut of the jungle near the Inner Station. Focus closely on how this moment characterizes Marlow and what it reveals about his reliability of narration.

3. Find the breaks in the frame narrative where we, as readers, return to Marlow sitting in a Buddha pose telling his story on the deck of The Nelly. Why are these placed where they are in Marlow’s narrative? What effect does a return to the outer narrative (in London) have on us?


Characterization with Supporting Evidence

Purpose/Function in the Novella





The Manager (Mostly

Part I)

The Accountant


Part I)

The Helmsman

(Part II)

Russian Harlequin

(Part II)

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