Heart of Darkness Essay Prompts

Heart of Darkness AP Essay Prompts


  1. In literary works, cruelty often functions as a crucial motivation or a major social or political factor. In Heart of Darkness, acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim.


  1. The significance of a title is not always easy to discover. For some novels, the full significance of a title becomes apparent to the reader only gradually. Show how the significance of Conrad’s title Heart of Darkness reveals itself slowly through structure, style, literary devices, and/or figurative language.


  1. Many literary works use contrasting places (for example, two countries, two cities or towns, two houses, or the land and the sea) to represent opposed forces or ideas that are central to the meaning of the work. Heart of Darkness contrasts two such places. Write an essay explaining how the places differ, what each place represents, and how their contrast contributes to the meaning of the work.


  1. The most important themes in literature sometimes surface through scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Write a well-organized essay in which you show how a specific death scene in Heart of Darkness helps to illuminate the meaning of the novella as a whole.


  1. In many works of literature a physical journey – the literal movement from one place to another – plays a central role. In Heart of Darkness, a physical journey is an important element. Discuss how the journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.


  1. Some novels and plays seem to advocate changes in social or political attitudes or in traditions. Using Heart of Darkness, note briefly the particular attitudes or traditions that the author apparently wishes to modify. Then analyze the techniques the author uses to influence readers’ views.


  1. In a literary work, a minor character, often known as a foil, sometimes possesses traits that emphasize, by contrast or comparison, the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the main character. For example, the ideas or behavior of a minor character might highlight the weaknesses or strengths of the main character. Write an essay in which you analyze how the relation between a minor character and a major character illuminates the meaning of Heart of Darkness.


  1. An effective literary work does not merely stop or cease; it concludes. In the view of some critics, a work that does not provide the pleasure of significant closure has terminated with an artistic fault. A satisfactory ending is not, however, always conclusive in every sense; significant closure may require the reader to abide with or adjust to ambiguity and uncertainty. In an essay, discuss the ending of Heart of Darkness. Explain how and why the ending appropriately or inappropriately concludes the work.

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