Notes on Heart of Darkness Themes

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Heart of Darkness Topic Tracking: Mental/Physical Illness

Part 1

Mental/Physical Illness 1: The doctor was curious about the mental changes that individuals would undergo while in the wilderness. He asked Marlow about past madness in the family, and tells him to keep his wits about him when he goes.

Mental/Physical Illness 2: Marlow notes that the attack on the barren coast by the French ship seemed a little insane.

Mental/Physical Illness 3: The sailors onboard the French ship were dying of various illnesses at the rate of three a day.

Mental/Physical Illness 4: The slave laborers were afflicted with some sort of malaise; they laid under trees, some dying.

Mental/Physical Illness 5: The accountant's record keeping was disturbed by the loud groans of a man dying of some tropical disease.

Mental/Physical Illness 6: The fat man was struck with fever.

Mental/Physical Illness 7: Marlow was reminded by the fat man's futile desire for revenge of the doctor's words about the mental changes people would undergo under the stress of the wilderness.

Mental/Physical Illness 8: Kurtz had come down with some sort of disease.

Part 2

Mental/Physical Illness 9: The manager's uncle complained that like Kurtz, all of his men were suffering from various illnesses.

Mental/Physical Illness 10: Marlow describes himself as having had a constant low fever during this journey. The weakness of mind and body associated with this fever afflicted all of the pilgrims; when Marlow wondered why the cannibals did not eat them, he only had to look at the other passengers to know how unhealthy they all were. His fever-related delirium made him hope that he was not so unappetizing-looking.

Mental/Physical Illness 11: Kurtz's "nerves went wrong"--he had lost his mental health.

Part 3

Mental/Physical Illness 12: The Russian had nursed Kurtz through numerous illnesses and afflictions.

Mental/Physical Illness 13: Marlow elaborates on a theory of why Kurtz had become insane--he had been corrupted by isolation. His mental breakdown paralleled his physical sickness.

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