Notes on Heart of Darkness Themes

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Heart of Darkness Topic Tracking: Isolation

Part 1

Isolation 1: Marlow asks his shipmates to consider the loneliness and sense of abandonment felt by the Roman legionnaire in the unfamiliar wilderness of pre-civilization Britain.

Isolation 2: Marlow felt very alone as he traveled along the coast--he does not even mention that he spoke to anyone. He "had no point of contact" with any of his fellow travelers.

Isolation 3: Marlow says that it is impossible for anyone to tell anyone else of his own life, that people are always trapped in themselves and apart from each other.

Part 2

Isolation 4: Marlow imagined Kurtz sailing off upriver, away from society and into his own world.

Isolation 5: Marlow felt cut off from his past and from civilization as he piloted the ship upriver. The trip was overwhelmingly silent and Marlow does not mention ever talking to the other passengers.

Part 3

Isolation 6: It is the "great solitude" which allowed Kurtz to be corrupted. Away from the distractions of society, Kurtz was able to be completely alone with his own mind, and it was from this isolation that he lost his principles.

Isolation 7: Marlow wanted to keep the experience of searching for Kurtz to himself--he wanted to be entirely alone when he confronted Kurtz.

Isolation 8: Marlow tells his shipmates that being alone in the wilderness is what drove Kurtz mad--not just the surroundings, but his self-imposed isolation within them. Looking too deeply into one's self, Marlow implies, is dangerous.

Isolation 9: When Marlow returned to the white city, he could not relate to any other person--could not take them seriously. His experience cut him off from every other person.

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