Here are some questions to ask yourself after reading the novel:
1) Why are most of the novel's characters given only descriptive titles, and not actual names? (ex. brickmaker, accountant)
2) Why is the framing narrator unnamed?
3) What do the three women in the novel represent? (Marlow's Aunt, Kurtz Intended, and his Mistress) What does Marlow mean in Chapter 1 when he says that women are "out of touch with truth" and live in a beautiful world of their own?
4) What does it mean to have a "choice of nightmares" (Chapter 3)?
5) What is "the horror" (Chapter 3)?
6) In chapter 1, Marlow states, "You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world." Yet in Chapter 3, he lies to Kurtz' Intended. Why do you think that is?
7) Early in Chapter 1, Marlow says, "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only...something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to." What do you think he means by this? Is this passage a criticism of colonialism in general?
8) Conrad uses the term "nigger" in Heart of Darkness. Do you feel that Conrad is being racist in these remarks? Why or why not?
9) What does Marlow think of the futility and waste that goes on in the Company? Give some examples.
10) Often throughout the novel, when Marlow describes a black object or person, he then points out something light or white about it. For example, in chapter 1 he describes one of the workers at the Outer Station saying, "It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white thread." What does Conrad accomplish by this contrast, what is he trying to express?
11) The unnamed narrator breaks the story only a few times. Why do you think he broke the story where he did?
12) Early in Chapter 3, Marlow describes Kurtz' house and the gateposts around it. He is startled by the shrunken heads atop the posts that are turned toward the house. He remarks that they would be more impressive if turned outward. Why did Kurtz have them turned towards the house?
13) Near the end of Chapter 3, Marlow, talking about Kurtz states, "True, he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot." To what is he referring?