Book Review: “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

I enjoy this Jungle cover image a lot.

*There are no spoilers below because this book’s story sucks!*

“Heart of Darkness” was published a year before my favorite century in literature, the 20th century. I love books from the 20th century because the language is more modern, the dialogue is more fluent, and those books are just more familiar to me due to their close proximity to our current era in the 21st century. I am also a fan of classic literature, an example is “Lord of the Flies”, a book about English children who become savages on a remote island and start a civil war among each other. The reason why I wanted to read “Heart of Darkness” was because I had read a comparison online between similar themes in “Lord of the Flies” and “Heart of Darkness”, plus I had a close friend tell me the book was decent so I decided to give this book a read while on vacation, here is what I think about it.

Joseph Conrad is great at setting atmosphere, I will give him that, but he fails at writing captivating dialogue, creating memorable characters, keeping a flow in the story, and holding my attention as the reader. In fact, the lack of an attention holding writing style is really what kills this book. Sure, you could blame it on my ADD, or you could say that the writing style of Joseph Conrad simply hasn’t aged well in the past <100 years. But, I honestly don’t believe this book will be able to continue to stand the test of time within the remainder of the 21st century. I think it will most likely fade out of the realm of popular classic literature. During my readthrough of this book I could not pinpoint what the central message of this book was supposed to be, I even checked out Spark Notes and Wikipedia after I finished the book, even the internet explanations over the book’s plot and message are vague and seem like nonsense. Which is a real shame considering I wanted to enjoy this book.

Like I said, Conrad does excel at creating an atmosphere, but without those other elements like the good dialogue and story flow, Heart of Darkness comes off to me as more of a glorified look book than anything. The story did conjure up some very visual images in my mind throughout my read, but I honestly could not tell you the bulk of what happened during this novella. I thought I was in the perfect environment to read this book too, I read the first half at night in a beach condo, and the second half on the actual beach by an ocean that faces the Caribbean (although the book takes place in the African Congo).

Let me go ahead and describe the imagery that appeared in my mind during my read by listing off some key words: Night, Tropics, Witchcraft, Spirits, Boats, Rivers, Lever Action Rifles, Explorers, Vines, Jungle Trees, African Savages, Ghosts, Severed Heads, Death, Skeletons, Treasure, and an Island. I actually like that entire theme and setting quite a lot, however I don’t believe Joseph Conrad built a worthy story using the listed keywords that I got out of this book. There is one part near the end of the book that talks about horned sorcerers, pendent tailed demons, and a river demon breathing black smoke into the air, all of which are hella cool. However, this book was written so poorly that these images and concepts are only slightly enjoyable when in the context of this novella here.

To expand upon my earlier point on the books unmemorable characters, I do not believe Conrad gave a clear reason as to why or why not I should care about the story’s two central characters, Kurtz and Marlow. I think they betray each other at the end and one dies or something? Basically I could care less about either one of them, all I got out of the two was that they enjoy dropping the “N Word” a few times every 10 pages.

To summarize, I do not care for this book and I will most likely never read it again unless a college course requires me to. This book to me feels strange, in a way I hate it but in another way I kind of enjoyed it because of the imagery it did conjure in my mind. However, I can easily get all those same pictures in my head from looking at some sick jungle paintings. I know there are some who do enjoy this book out there though, so if you are someone who enjoys this book I want you to let me know why you enjoyed it in this review’s comment section.

Publication Date: 1899

Word Count: 38,000 words.

Genres: Adventure Fiction, Fiction, Nautical Fiction, Novella.

i. e. 3.4/10

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