Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Writing Style

Conrad possesses an effectively descriptive style. He chooses the right details to make the story come alive rather than use excessive detail that bog down the narrative. Conrad also has a dark sense of humor, which lends readability to this otherwise grave tale. An excellent example of his humor appears on pp. 104-105 when Marlow, because of vanity, hopes he does not appear as unappetizing to the cannibals as the pilgrims likely do.

Conrad's choice to tell this story as a frame story helps the reader feel as if he or she is listening to a sea yarn rather than reading a book. This choice also allows the narrator to comment on the story and on Marlow, and should not be ignored since it is Conrad who is ultimately the storyteller. Consider the following passage:

The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical…and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside (56).

This method allows Conrad to cue the reader how to examine the tale (if the narrator is correct and reliable, that is) without too much authorial intrusion. Conrad produced a tightly woven, psychologically complex novella with this work, and that is a testament to his superb writing skill.