Heart of Darkness


Joseph Conrad

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Themes and Colors
Colonialism Theme Icon
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Heart of Darkness, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Work Theme Icon

In a world where truth is unknowable and men's hearts are filled with either greed or a primitive darkness that threatens to overwhelm them, Marlow seems to find comfort only in work. Marlow notes that he escaped the jungle's influence not because he had principles or high ideals, but because he had a job to do that kept him busy.

Work is perhaps the only thing in Heart of Darkness that Marlow views in an entirely positive light. In fact, more than once Marlow will refer to work or items that are associated with work (like rivets) as "real," while the rest of the jungle and the men in it are "unreal." Work is like a religion to him, a source of support to which he can cling in order to keep his humanity. This explains why he is so horrified when he sees laziness, poor work, or machines left out to rust. When other men cease to do honest work, Marlow knows they have sunk either into the heart of darkness or the hollow greed of civilization.

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Work ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Work appears in each section of Heart of Darkness. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Work Quotes in Heart of Darkness

Below you will find the important quotes in Heart of Darkness related to the theme of Work.
Part 1 Quotes
When one has got to make correct entries, one comes to hate those savages—hate them to the death.
Related Characters: Chief Accountant (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes
It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: "Exterminate all the brutes!"
Related Characters: Marlow (speaker), Kurtz (speaker)
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis: