How Does Joseph Conrad Build Suspense In Heart Of Darkness

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In the center of the African continent lies the Congo, a territory that was still mostly unknown at the time the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was published. The book itself is set in the Congo, where the main character Marlow took a job as a riverboat captain for a company. The plot seems fairly linear within the frame story structure, following Marlow as he starts this new life. Throughout the novella we can observe that a suspenseful environment is created through the mention of illness and the plot is often driven forward by a death. In Heart of Darkness, illness and death are used to create suspense and advance the plot. The story starts off with Marlow looking for a job. When his aunt informs him of a position that opened in the Congo he learns that it was because…show more content…
He is asked many strange questions including “‘Ever any madness in your family?’” The doctor is implying that he feels Marlow must be insane to take up this job (Conrad 16). Apparently the doctor is trying to prove that going into the heart of the Congo changes people, and the readers learn that none of the patients the doctor tested ever returned. Conrad gives us this information to build the suspense, and make the reader unsure of Marlow’s fate. Later in the novella, after Marlow’s companion tells him to kill someone and his reaction to this was not that killing was wrong but that there was no one around to kill. He thinks back to what the doctor said “‘It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot’’’ (Conrad 28). He realizes that what he is experiencing out here is changing him and says “I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting” (Conrad 28). Conrad is using this point to show the character development of Marlow and to build suspense into just how these changes will impact his decisions in the

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