Themes in Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness concerns Marlow (a projection to whatever degree great or small of Conrad) and his journey of self. Marlow reiterates often enough that he is recounting a spiritual voyage of self-discovery. He remarks casually but crucially that he did not know himself before setting out, and that he liked work for the chance it provides to "find yourself in what no other man can know." The Inner Station "was the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience." At a superficial level, the journey is a temptation to revert, a record of "remote kinship" with the "wild and passionate uproar," of a "trace of a response" to it, of a final rejection of the "fascination of the abomination." And why should there not be a response? "The mind of man is capable of anything- because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future." Marlow’s temptation is made concrete through his exposure to Kurtz, a white man and sometime idealist who had fully responded to the wilderness; a potential and fallen self. "I had turned to the wilderness really, not to Mr. Kurtz." Marlow returns to Europe a changed and more knowing man. Ordinary people are now "intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretense, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew."