“Toying Architecturally with the Bones” On Sitting Down to Read Heart of Darkness Once Again

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Ethan Gibson


This paper was originally written for Professor Mary Ann Gillies’ English 438 course Topics in Modernism. The assignment asked students to write a reflective essay based on a previously submitted reading journal assignment. The paper uses MLA citation style.


This paper attempts to combine reflection on the stakes of literary studies today with a close reading of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In particular, I focus on what it means to read about historical atrocities such as Conrad depicts, and on how the main narrator, Marlow, makes visible a certain kind of failure to see those atrocities for what they are. I conclude by suggesting that this character’s failure to understand is comparable to the failure of so many readers and critics to see racism, imperialism, and colonialism as both operative within the novel and, potentially, criticized by it.

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Fourth Year+ Category (90+ credits, including Honours)