Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness has foreshadowing that adds a lot of suspense throughout the book. Conrad used foreshadowing through minor details that are not clearly stated and are to be interpreted as the book continues. The setting of the book–on a small sailing craft on a river as night falls–and Marlow’s comparison, by implication, of the dark heart of Africa (the Belgian Congo) and the barbarian darkness on the northern fringes of the Roman Empire, both are examples of irony and foreshadowing.
In the beginning Marlow is remembering what it may have been like to be a young Roman conqueror exploring through the jungle. He would have had to deal with “…cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death…” Marlow mentions how the soldier would have had a “fascination of the abomination” .
Later in the book this same fascination overcame Kurtz after his long time in the Congo, “he hates sometimes the idea of being taken away” .
Even when Marlow finds Kurtz, he can’t “break the spell – the heavy mute spell of the wilderness – that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts” When Marlow begins to share his story about an earlier sea voyage, he shares with his fellow mates a story about how one of their captains was killed because of a fight that arose over two black hens. Fresleven, one of the men in the fight, began to beat a native because of his desire for the hen. The native’s son broke up the fight and “made a tentative jab with a spear at the white man – and of course it went quite easy between the shoulder blades” .
Marlow then takes Fresleven’s job as captain of the ship, stepping into his shoes. Later on in the book when Marlow’s ship is under a light attack, his helmsman was speared through the ribs, causing him to die. Blood filled Marlow’s shoes, and he threw them overboard. This is an example of foreshadowing, because Marlow fills Fresleven’s shoes without realizing the full extent of the job. It also an example of irony, because when Fresleven, a nice white man is killed, nobody was shaken, yet when the savage was speared Marlow was full of regret. Another example of irony is that Africa is constantly being described as a dark and gloomy place in the novel, but the Europeans are the ones that actually have the dark hearts.
The Africans only get violent because they want to keep their culture alive, and the Europeans are willing to throw that away as long as they earn a profit. The only reason the Europeans wanted to invade Africa was for commercial benefits, and that is dark Another example of foreshadowing is the two women knitting black wool outside the office Marlow visited before he went on his journey. The color black often appears to Marlow when he is headed for trouble.. The women were sitting outside, drawing in unsuspecting youth ready for adventure, yet unaware of the danger ahead.
Later in the book when Marlow is following Kurtz into the dark, dangerous forest, he reflects that “the knitting old women with the cat obtruded herself upon my memory as a most improper person to be sitting at the other end of such an affair” . Conrad used irony and foreshadowing by describing the different scenes in a very dark tone that when looking back at them after certain events happen in the book show the way that specific narration such ,as the lady’s knitting black wool, links to the events following it.