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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) is an expose of the cruelty that the author observed when he worked briefly in the Belgian Congo. The story is based on a journey that Conrad took up the Congo River in 1890, during King Leopold II of Belgium’s abusive rule of the area. The main thread follows the journey of the ferry-boat captain, Marlow, who must return Kurtz, an ivory trader, to Europe. The severely ill Kurtz dies on the journey after handling Marlow a collection of papers. Back in Europe, Marlow gives these to a journalist instead of those for which they were intended.
Heart of Darkness is a story of many layers and nuances, not only about exploitation but also about the emptiness which follows when the delusion behind certain lofty ideals is revealed.