Youth, Heart of Darkness, the End of the Tether

ISBN: 0192816268
ISBN 13: 9780192816269
By: Joseph Conrad Robert Kimbrough

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About this book

"The three stories in this volume lay no claim to unity of artistic purpose. The only bond between them is that of the time in which they were written." Thus Conrad, in his Author's Note of 1917, qualifies his later statement that the stories represent the three ages of man--youth, maturity and age. Together on one volume we see that he did not set out to write about three separate periods of life, but rather that he wrote about life from three separate points of view.

Reader's Thoughts

John Guild

"Heart of Darkness" is important, but "Youth" is the real treasure here. One of the greatest short stories in the English language, it's unfortunately too long for certain high school British Literature textbooks. It's also one of the better examples of Conrad's humor ("I thought people who had been blown up deserved more attention."). Great collection.


Bought it because it seems such a landmark book and because I loved Apocolypse Now so much (strongly connected to the book). Started it, fund it a bit slow and haven't got back to it but will one day.


Two-for-one offers are usually crap. You feel like you are getting more, but the add-ons are rubbish, anyway. Not so with this. I brought it for the highly recommended 'Heart of Darkness'(after seeing Apocalypse Now, nach) and ended up also getting absorbed in the short story 'Youth'in a big way. Oozing with sentiment.

John A

I'm reading Heart of Darkness, for a funny reason.


Conrad is one of the most influential writers of the modern era. His narrative and character development set a precedence for nearly everything written in the 20th and 21st century. Along with Steinbeck, I'm not sure I can name another author I enjoy reading more. I remember HoD being of one those summer reading books that was tortuous in high school. Reading it twelve years later, I'm baffled at how I did not appreciate it more the first time...I'm sure it's due to maturity and exposure to other literature, or maybe it was just poor teaching. Either way, I look forward to falling back on this collection of short stories years into the future.

Teri Wehage

Youth is incredible 5+ stars. HOD I Rate as a 4, just my opinion.


This wonderful little book combines some of Conrad's best short novels into one book that becomes his exploration of man in all of his ages. Heart of Darkness remains his definitive work, but End of the Tether will surprise you with its beautiful conjunction of symbols and exploration of the father/daughter relationship.


I have a different edition of this, but it contains the same stories (mostly). I have only read Youth, thus far. Youth was great. I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in the book.


Heart of Darkness is a complex novel. Conrad's writing displays excellent character development and influential themes.

Evan Dilauro

3 fine stories. Each an exploration into the minds of briny men from a world that no longer exists.


Only read Youth so far, and for the most it's an informative and well drawn picture of life at sea in the nineteenth century. However if you're middle aged and struggling a bit, the conclusion lessens the enticement of the following two tales.

Keith Miller

Youth; Heart of Darkness; The End of the Tether (Penguin Classics) by Joseph Conrad (1995)


over-rated classic. not impressed.


As a combination, these are three stories about life at sea. Seperately, each one has its own tone and underlying agenda. Because I read these stories over a series of months, I hardly recall "Youth" except that it, obviously, had a very youthful tone of anticipation and excitement. Also a very short read."Heart of Darkness" (my real reason for picking this book up in the first place) is more dark and complex in its narration as well as its deeper meaning. As the main charachter, Marlow, sails deep into the African jungle to bring home an ivory trading post manager who has survived in the jungle a little too long, as is evident upon their arrival at his station. This story has been interpreted in many ways in relation to the meaning of the journey into the deep/dark jungle or the "darkness within" oneself.It does raise questions as to what the human spirit can endure.I just finished "The End of the Tether" so I have not had a lot of time to reflect upon it, but I think I may like this one the best. Though the main charachter is Captain Whalley, you get a glimpse of some of the supporting charachters from interesting perspectives as well (within their minds and how they view each other as well as events that occur). Captain Whalley is a retired ship captain who has lost almost everything in the stock market crash. He is forced to pick up one last contract in his old age to help his struggling daughter. However, his life starts to crumble quickly when he nears the end of his contract...Though this story, like the others has a somewhat sorrowful tone, to me it captures the mystery of sea-faring life the best.

Nick Jones

Joseph Conrad brings discord to our household. For thirty years or more he has been one of my favourite authors, but my partner can’t abide him. She says he disregards women and his works too often read as though they are a bad translation from the French. It is true there are not that many notable women characters in Conrad’s work, but I see this as a limitation rather than a damning failure; and maybe he has a tendency towards a Frenchism or two, but if we look for an author’s voice in a work, it seems natural that the English of a French speaking Pole should have a French accent. But I suspect that a lot of my partner’s prejudice against Conrad is not to do with the writer himself, but with the creepy English teacher who enthusiastically taught Conrad at her school. This is the book that she studied and she bought me a copy to prove how dreadful it is...I, of course, like it. Originally published as ‘Youth: A Narrative and Two Other Stories’, it is a collection of three long short stories, two of them, if published separately, being long enough to count as novellas. The most famous, and the one I had previously read, is Heart of Darkness. This tale of a physical journey to the centre of a ‘dark’ continent and a symbolic journey to the dark heart of ‘Man’, has a certain mythic force going beyond the original text – the most famous version now being Apocalypse Now. The most controversial aspect of the story, however, is its treatment of Africa and Africans. While the tale is a critique of the savagery of European colonialism (and therefore in marked contrast to the vast majority of European literature which praised the colonial project), the Africans become little more than savage types, never characters: the story could be reduced to the moral that colonialism reduces the colonialists to the level of the savage African. We can take the story to be largely symbolic, that the cannibal Africans are representations of European fears of savagery: although this is valid, it does not negate the fact that the ‘Africans’ of the story are representations of historical Africans in Africa, and therefore the charge of racism remains. However, we should note the form of the narrative: it begins with a first person narrator (the ‘author’ of the tale), but then moves to a second narrator, the seaman Marlow telling of his experiences while captaining a boat up a great African river: unlike a third person narrative it does not lay claim to be a ‘True’ version of events, but a perspective, a point-of-view: the attitudes expressed do not claim to directly reflect a reality, but one character’s viewpoint: as readers we can challenge the viewpoint without rejecting the tale. It should also be noted that Marlowe ponders upon the inhabitants who lived beside the Thames centuries before and their response to a Roman trireme: parallels are made between the ancient British and today’s Africans: civilization and savagery are not, as Victorian science might claim, biologically determined, or, as Victorian theology might claim, divinely determined, but matters of historical development. But, despite all this, our doubts will probably remain. It has also been noted that there is a certain emptiness at the centre of the tale: it is very difficult to pin down what exactly is at the heart of darkness. Some commentators, such as Tzvetan Todorov, have seen this as a fascinating ambiguity, one that constantly generates meaning, others, notably F.R. Leavis, have seen it as a vagueness, an imaginative fuzziness that limits the impact of the work: I tend towards the latter view. The first story, Youth, is also related by Marlow: it is the story from his youth, a voyage from London to pick up coals in Tyneside and transport them to Bankok, but it is a catalogue of disasters, the ship taking many months before it even manages to leave the coast of England. It is a sort of comic version of Conrad’s previous story Typhoon, the captain of the ship doggedly continuing with his purpose despite all setbacks and adverse circumstances...but here the captain’s determination seems to be based on a pig headed lack of imagination. The final story, The End of the Tether, the longest in the volume, is a story of age, a once successful sea captain, now impoverished by unwise investments, has command of the worst of ships with the worst of partners...and also finds he is going blind. It is a fine story of a good man who has made some unwise decisions...and has a foolishly optimistic view of human character (not one of Conrad’s mistakes). It is a fine story, but it suffers, as do many of Conrad’s earlier works, by the inclusion of too many picturesque descriptions of the Far East. Although there are other Conrad stories to go to first, this is a fine volume.

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