Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2019


In Heart of Darkness, illness and physical vulnerability provide a sense of defamiliarization that enables what Virginia Woolf described as the exile's perspective, which in turn allows for a critique of normative regimes. Marlow's outsider perception of the physical qualities of imperialist Europeans in contrast to subjugated native Africans suggests an ambivalent aesthetic morality that is characteristic of modernist irony. This ambivalence is particularly significant in the frequently overlooked scene in which Marlow falls ill and nearly dies. The perspective Marlow acquires in his own experience of illness ultimately frames both his final encounter with Kurtz and with the Intended.

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Copyright © 2019, Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in MFS: Modern Fiction Studies, 65:1 (2019), 177-206. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.