Foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

What is foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing in the heart of darknessForeshadowing can be a literary technique that allows authors to hint at plot developments that won’t happen until later in the story. Therefore, when exploring the foreshadowing in the heart of darkness you can either make explicit statements or leave subtle clues as to what is coming later in the story. Anton Chekhov, a Russian author, summarized the concept of foreshadowing by writing, “If you state in the first chapter that there’s a rifle hanging from the wall, then in the second or the third chapter it must go off.” In other words, the description of the gun on a wall should foreshadow its use later.

Here are some additional details on foreshadowing

  • Sometimes foreshadowing is so subtle it is often not noticed until the event that was foreshadowed comes to pass.
  • Foreshadowing is often used to enhance the mystery of an event rather than to dispel it. It suggests that it might happen but does not predict how it will occur.
  • Writers can use foreshadowing to prepare for future scenes and build suspense.

Different types of foreshadowing

There are many ways to foreshadow. Foreshadowing can be done by characters or writers. They may either explicitly state what will happen or make subtle suggestions about the future. These are the most popular types of foreshadowing:

Subtle foreshadowing. Sometimes, foreshadowing can be so subtle that the reader doesn’t notice it until much later in the story. A character might mention that they work in a laboratory that makes vaccines. But this may not be obvious until the end, when a rare virus threatens humanity and suddenly this character becomes humanity’s last hope.

Partial or mysterious foreshadowing: This can increase suspense and anticipation by revealing specific details about what will occur. Imagine a story that starts with: “Being capable of spitting watermelon seeds was, one day, the greatest gift that I’ve ever been given.” This example shows that the bizarre skill of the narrator is clearly indicated toForeshadowing in the heart of darkness be relevant to future events. However, the reader doesn’t get a clear understanding of why this skill will be important.

Direct foreshadowing is when a character or narrator makes an explicit statement about what will be happening later in the text. Direct foreshadowing is when, for example, the prologue to Romeo and Juliet shows that two lovers will be taking their lives. Although it does not reveal what happens in the story, this foreshadowing can add suspense to the story because the audience knows something that the characters don’t. This can also lead to dramatic irony. Direct foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet creates a sense that fate will be against the characters, whether they are aware of it or not.


Red herrings: Authors sometimes use foreshadowing to deceive readers about the next step. These false clues can appear to be foreshadowing in these cases. These false clues are called “red-herrings.” Because they keep the reader guessing, red herrings are common in mystery novels. A character may describe another character as suspicious. This draws the reader’s attention towards that character’s possible guilt. Even though the character later proves to be innocent, it is a common red herring in mystery novels.

Analyzing foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

Conrad’s foreshadowing is unique because it doesn’t serve to foretell future events as much as it serves to prefigure Marlow’s darkening story. His journey into the jungle becomes more and more difficult. This technique is clearly demonstrated in the novella’s opening pages. Consider, for example, the dark sky the Nellie passengers see to their west as the River Thames flows into North Sea.

The sky above the Nellie is bright and cheerful, but the sea, which is the direction that a ship would need in order to leave England for Africa or Continental Europe, is dark. Marlow’s story of his journey to moral obscurity in an largely unexplored part of the Congolese forest is foreshadowed in the pages.

Symbolism is also used to reveal Foreshadowing in the heart of darkness. Marlow, for example, travels to Brussels to pick up his assignment when he meets two mysterious women knitting black wool. Marlow finds their “swift, indifferent placidity,” troubling and comments that they “seemed uncanny, fateful.”

The Fates are said to have the ability to see the future and can predict the fate of each individual. One Fate spins the life-thread of each person, while another measures it and cuts it when it is time for that individual to die. Marlow is uneasy about the presence of these women who, he believes, may bring him to his end. Marlow thinks about one of the women and says, “Not many of them ever saw her again” He worries that he may also be one of these men who never returns.Foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

  1. How is the office is used as foreshadowing in the heart of darkness?

Conrad is a critic writer, if not cynical. Marlow is one of his characters. He criticizes European colonization. Although he does criticize the Africans, the novella was written for Europeans. His criticisms are aimed more at Europeans, European businesses, and European governments. It also reflects the basic nature of man, which is the ability to engage in evil activities.

To foreshadow his story, he uses the Main Office in Brussels as one of the settings. The description of the office, its people and the events within it gives clues to readers about what is to come in the rest. These descriptions give clues to what Marlow will face on his journey to the heart Africa.

The first observation that prefigures the story is made about the buildings within the city: “… “I arrive in a town that always makes me think that a whited graveyard” (Conrad, Charters 1991, p. 289). Sepulcher means a grave. It is often found in the wall. Conrad is clearly referring to the Bible. To criticize hypocrites, the Bible parable uses sepulcher. Sepulcher appears white from the outside, but the inside is rotten and smelly. Conrad makes a similar parable about European enterprises being hypocrites. While they claim they have noble missions in civilizing colonies, they actually engage in corrupt and malevolent activities. This statement is indicative of what Marlow will face in Africa.

A description of the street in which the office is located is another hint that readers might find helpful. Conrad described it as dark and quiet. The room’s map shows the way the journey will look. “… at one end, a large shinning chart marked with all colors of the rainbow.” The center was dead. And the river was therefascinating-deadly-like a snake.” (Ibid, p. 289).

Yellow is traditionally associated with glory. However, Conrad added “Death in the middle” to his description. The goal of the journey is glory and conquering the uncivilized, but it could also prove fatal. Conrad also compared Congo to a snake through Marlow. This also indicates that the river journey will be exciting, but also dangerous and deadly like a snake.

Snakes are traditionally depicted as evil creatures and malicious creatures. Conrad could be referring to the Bible, specifically the Genesis chapter 3 when Eve was seduced to eat forbidden fruit by the serpent. Conrad refers to the new continent as both evil and fascinating, just like the jungle and its inhabitants. Conrad suggests that Marlow doesn’t know what he will encounter, but is curious about the unknown and what he might find out.

  1. The Women reveal foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

The setting and the characters are a hint at what Marlow will encounter in Africa. Two women and the doctor are the most prominent characters at the Main Office in Brussels. Although they don’t say much, their actions and appearances are significant symbols and help readers understand the story. Conrad describes them so that they carry important symbols.

“Two women, one thin and one fat, sat on a straw-bottomed chair knitting black wool.” (Ibid. p.289) “…and an animal reposed on her lap.” “…I imagined these two guarding the Door of Darkness, knitting dark wool for a warm pall …”. (Ibid. p.290).

Conrad refers to them as “guardians of the door to darkness”. This suggests that Marlow’s journey leads to darkness. They are also described as wearing black dresses which gives them an eerie feeling. It is a symbol of fate and death. Traditionally, the black-clad woman with her cat is interpreted as a witch. Because the “witch”, knitting a black pall to cover the coffin, creates a more dramatic impression of darkness.Foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

  1. The Doctor as foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

The doctor, unlike the other women who prefigure the story through their appearances and behavior, gives clues about what is to come through his conversation with Marlow. His words suggest that Marlow’s trip is going to be difficult.

Before Marlow embarks on his trip to Africa, the Doctor measures Marlow’s head. Marlow asks the doctor if he measures the crania of Company staff members upon returning from Africa. The doctor replies, “Oh, they never see me” (Ibid. p. 291). The doctor’s comment that people who leave never return can be taken to mean that they will not be back. According to the doctor “…the mental changes that occur inside …” are “interesting for science” and will be observed by those who travel to the new continent. Marlow is advised by the doctor to remain calm if he wishes to maintain his sanity.

  1. How the Minor Characters help reveal foreshadowing in the heart of darkness

In addition to the main characters, there are minor characters at the Main Office in Brussels that provide clues about what will happen later in the story. Marlow meets a secretary who is full of sympathy and desolation. It is clear that something terrible is coming. Marlow also speaks out against disclosing trade secrets. This suggests that Marlow’s plans for Africa are tied to secret practices, which most likely will be illegal.

The young, shabby clerk is another foreshadowing of the minor character in office. Marlow questions him about why he doesn’t go out. His reply is “I’m no fool as I look …”” (Ibid., p. 299). This comment shows that even the young clerk is aware of what’s happening in Africa and what happens when they go.

What is an example of foreshadowing in the heart of darkness?

Symbolism is also used to foreshadow in Heart of Darkness. Marlow, for example, travels to Brussels to complete his assignment when he meets two mysterious women knitting black wool. Marlow is uneasy about the presence of these women who Marlow believes may be his last breath.

What is the foreshadowing comment that Marlow’s doctor makes to Marlow?

Marlow is measured by the Doctor. He says, “I always ask for leave, in order to measure the cranias of those going out there”, but then comments that, really, “the changes happen inside, you know.” Marlow is then asked by the Doctor He, “Have you ever experienced madness in your family?”

What’s the point of foreshadowing in the heart of darkness?

Conrad’s use of pre-empting in Heart of Darkness is unique because it doesn’t function to foretell future events as much as it serves to prefigure Marlow’s darkening mood, which becomes more bleak the further they travel into the jungle.

What are some examples foreshadowing in the heart of darkness?

Common examples of foreshadowing

  • Dialogue, like I have a bad feeling regarding this
  • Symbols such as blood, colors, birds and weapons.
  • Weather motifs include storm clouds, rain, wind and clearing skies.Foreshadowing in the heart of darkness
  • Omens such as prophecies and broken mirrors are called “omens”.
  • Character reactions include apprehension and curiosity as well as secrecy.

Which is the first instance of foreshadowing in action?

Foreshadowing is often used in the beginning of a story or chapter to hint at future events. This device sets the tone. For example, it was a stormy and dark night that foreshadows danger, trouble and mayhem

What are foreshadowing moments and how can they be used?

This is a literary device that gives an indication of what will happen in a story. Foreshadowing is often seen at the beginning of a movie or in a scene. This helps build tension and excitement for the viewer about what’s to come.


It is evident that when describing foreshadowing in the heart of darkness, it is important to consider various critical aspects. For instance, student should explain how Conrad has used the setting, characters, and events to foreshadow the story. Conrad even uses symbolism to add complexity and detail to the story. The detailed descriptions of the Main Office in Brussels and the symbolic conception have helped readers foresee the entire story. Conrad gave new meaning to African Company’s practices in Africa, even at the beginning of the journey. He leaves it open for the possibility of assigning another meaning to this new meaning.