Parents' Guide to

Heart of Darkness

By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Tense journey to find ivory trader gone rogue in Congo.

Heart of Darkness Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 16+

The novel is a thought-provoking work for juniors and seniors in high school or older readers

My 11th grade students found this very challenging but also rewarding in the big ideas that it presents. Some of them even re-read it because while a short novel, it is so dense. But they WANTED to re-read it because they realize what an amazing work it is.
age 10+

Darkness from the Devils Hart

it is a nice book! =)

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (3 ):

The writing is dense and layered with symbolism and other literary devices, there is some challenging vocabulary, and there are complex themes best for mature teens. Conrad's classic novella maintains an impressive sense of dread while at the same time offering a searing critique of imperialism at a time when the expansion of the British Empire and the exploitation of Africa by European powers was glorified as bringing "light" to uncivilized populations. Kurtz's greedy pursuit of ivory, which consumes him and overrides and extinguishes any conscience or morality he once had, is a metaphor for the foreign policy of Conrad's day and remains relevant today.

Often required reading in high school, HEART OF DARKNESS is a powerful work of early modern fiction, full of psychological reflection and interior monologues by Marlow, who is trying to make sense of what he is seeing. (Conrad himself made a life-changing trip to the Congo with a Belgian company in 1890, serving as captain of a Congo River steamer, an experience that informs this novella.) Students may be pleased that it is only about 90 pages long, but it is not an easy read. Readers will find they must take it slow to grasp the nuances of Conrad's commentary and understand the historical context of imperial conquest, where racist domination of indigenous people was officially sanctioned by conquering countries.

Book Details

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