Lesson video

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I'm Mrs. Crompton.

Welcome to today's English lesson.

Our focus today is strengthening our reading skills.

And we'll be looking at some new unseen fiction text, The Heart of Darkness.

You'll need a pen and paper.

Take a moment to make sure you've cleared any distractions away and have everything you need at a hand.

First of all, let's get ourselves organised with a note taking page.

What I would like you to do, is to put the title, "Heart of Darkness contexts", at the top of your piece of paper.

A reminder then, that our notes will contain key words and phrases and written in your own words.

And finally, I will give you an opportunity to read back over those notes and to pick out your top three learning points.

Are we ready? Heart of Darkness then.

Let's start by placing our text with the next world.

And look at the historical context.

It was written at the end of the 19th century, against the backdrop of colonisation and the Age of Empire.

It's the second wave of colonisation with a particular focus on the African continent.

We have countries such as Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain involved.

And what are they travelling to Africa for? A few ideas on the screen for us to explore now.

Natural resources, in our text we're going to be looking at how this is a Belgian company exporting ivory.

Second point.


The norm of the 19th century, is this concept of colonisation.

And this is something that we're going to have to grapple with a little bit.

It doesn't sit comfortably to us as a modern reader.

However, this was the norm.

To travel from the West to go to these areas around the globe, be it The Americas or Africa, and this concept of demonstrating your authority and power by ruling over the inhabitants.

It's also links in with this idea of the values of the West being brought to these continents.

We've got the final part of Christian missionaries travelling to civilise the people that they found there by bringing them the Christian faith.

This was happening.

We have the Americas, we have Africa, we have Asia.

It was a concept that was the norm.

And I shall use that phrase again.

The one that I've left out there on the screen, is this idea that the scientists and naturalists, an amazing opportunity for discovering new species, and then if we start to think about some of our dates we've got scientists like Charles Darwin writing, lots of fantastic things came through exploration too.

We've got this really double-edged sword here where both good and potentially what we could describe as bad were created through colonisation.

Joseph Conrad himself.

Let's find out a little bit about him.

On the left hand side of the screen, before we move on we've got an image.

That's a contemporary image of the time, showing people travelling down, and this is the Congo River, which we're going to have in our text.

And as we can see, trying to hunt down an elephant ivory.

Conrad, born in the Ukraine and an ex-sailor, writing in his third language makes him a very interesting gentleman.

And what are his beliefs? Let's have a look at what he actually thought.

"The Conquest of the Earth" is not the manifest destiny of European peoples.

Conrad writes against a backdrop of imperialism, which he describes as a folly and racial superiority theories.

Conrad wants to critique this world.

But we're going to discover there are limitations to what he can say.

And also he only has certain language to write with.

And therefore that creates another layer of difficulty for him to really be able to express all of his ideas.

We'll pick that little bit further now.

Some of this is a little bit difficult, in terms of being quite challenging ideas, and I hope that we are ready to embrace some of this difficulty and know that it is difficult and it's something that we have to grapple with, but hopefully it will all fit together as we start to unpick the passage.

But I don't want to read the passage without taking these ideas on board.

That really would not do the passages justice.

Hard thinking, but really good thinking as a consequence.

Let's have a look at the next part then.

This part possibly.

This problem with contexts I've mentioned a little bit already.

Conrad's narrative is bound to a certain time and place.

If I were to take a note down in absolute fall, it would be that line, Conrad's narrative is bound to a certain time and place.

And then we've got this explanation, from a critic Edward Said in 1993.

We can see now the modern attitude, looking back on these texts and trying to make some sense of them.

What we need to consider he thinks is that, "Heart of Darkness" is a time document.

It displays a vision that was seen as normal and correct at the time.

We have to read this text within its context.

Conrad realises that colonialism was just dominance and land grabbing, but in the end presents it as inevitable and unavoidable.

For the 19th century writer, Conrad, he cannot see any alternative.

The vision isn't there, the opportunity isn't to think beyond this, he knows it's instinctively wrong, but he can't move beyond that.

And Said is trying to explain, why we should still read this text, why we should still grapple with its ideas, but we also need to consider it as a time document.

Well done so far.

Let's have a little look while we get into that.

I'm going to give you a little bit about the plots, time just to absorb some of this.

Don't worry about taking too many notes at this stage, but just have a little listen to some of the ideas so that we can locate the passage that we are working with.

Charles Marlow is hired by a Belgian company.

He is the gentleman who is on our river steamer.

And he's going to be captaining this along, into the Congo area further and further down the Congo River.

The company is involved in the export of ivory.

As soon as he arrives in the Congo, Marlow begins to hear rumours about another company employee Kurtz, who is stationed deep in the interior of the country.

We've got Marlow who's our narrator.

And then we have this character Kurtz, who is seen to be moving towards, and he's literally in "The Heart of the Darkness" of the African jungle of the Congo.

Marlow travels up river and meets Kurtz.

His health has been destroyed by years in the jungle, the barren darkness of his heart and the horror of what he has seen and experienced has led him to a descent into madness.

We see a character who we label as mad, which is another area for further exploration.

Should you want to take this text and have a look at it again.

This idea that what he has seen has driven him to madness.

Kurtz has been working at the innermost station.

He's been isolated from others and developed his own philosophy of how to civilise the African people.

One suggestion is that the loneliness and unfamiliarity of the situation induce Kurtz's madness.

You can read it that way.

Equally strong, Is this feeling that Kurtz has lost control in the Congolese jungle.

Kurtz isn't held accountable to anyone and this unrestrained power destroys him.

We need to think about it with a little bit more thought and care.

Is it the environment that leads to his madness? Or is it Kurtz's behaviour and how he chooses to dominate the people around him.

We're going to look at this a little bit more in a lesson further in the week, Bear this in mind, and we will come back to it.

Opportunity now just to take a pause.

Have a little look through the notes that you have taken so far.

And I would like you to review and prioritise them.

Select your top three learning points and write out these ideas in full sentences, just as we've done previously.

As soon as you've done that, resume the video and I'll be waiting to start the main part of the lesson.

Welcome back.

This screen should be really really familiar to you now.

We explore new extracts and we play with it and we look at it, but fundamentally we make sure that we are consolidating our reading strategies.

Reading our unseen extracts today is going to be following the same pattern as we have previously done.

It's been split into four sections.

First, next, then, finally.

Prompt questions are provided to help you activate the ideas we've been looking at.

Record your responses on lined paper, and you will need a different coloured pen or pencil to self-assess and check up progress.

Quick recap on the right hand side, then we're going to read the passage.

You all going to have control of the screen at that point, tracking the text with the prompt questions, answering the question, pausing, soon as you have all of your ideas written down, and by this stage, we are trying to write in as full a response as we possibly can first time.

Then you can resume the video and we'll go through our review process.

Are we ready? Off we go then.

The first starting point is, what does the writer want us to know at this point in the narrative? We want to know is the focus on character, setting, action? And secondly, can you identify a source of conflict? And make sure that you're selecting your relevant evidence.

Those prompts will come up at the bottom of each screen to remind you, but you might just want to pause and write down those questions.

Is the focus on character, setting or action? And can you identify a source of conflict? Select your relevant evidence.

And the passage itself is from the rising action of the novel.

Just so that we can place everything and bring in all of the knowledge that we need.

over to you.

Welcome back.

As we move through this response, things that we're looking out for and things that I'm really hoping that you're now trying to get down in your initial responses, is the use of embedded evidence.

Making sure that you're thinking about little opportunities to talk about the techniques that the writer has used and thinking about framing everything within a wider context.

Giving that feeling of overview.

We'll have a little look at that, as we work through.

The focus of the extract is on the setting and the way in which it makes the narrator feel.

We've got the overview statement straight away identifying the main focus.

The description highlights the otherliness of the environment.

There was no joy in the brilliance of the sun.

That's quite a nice phrase to use, but as we've thought about the context, I just wanted to bring that idea in Africa was very different.

And this is something that Conrad is trying to bring across in his text.

And he uses this backdrop as a setting, which is both the background, but also potentially interacting with the characters and maybe thematic, or even almost like a character itself that this environment is alive.

That word otherliness is quite helpful to us.

And it's a word that we often see in Victorian writing, if you consider the Dracula text that we used, we thought about the otherliness of Dracula and Lucy when she was in her vampiress state.

If you have studied Jekyll & Hyde designers some of you will have done.

We also have that idea of the otherliness, Hyde has surrounding him at all times and how that makes people feel.

Little bit of a digression.

Let's just track back.

The focus of the extract is on the setting and the way in which it makes the narrator feel.

The description highlights the otherliness of the environment.

There was no joy in the brilliance of the sun, a supporting quotation.

The landscape is reminiscent of travelling back in time, regressing into a world where man is no longer in control.

"Vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings".

Precise use of vocabulary there with this idea of regression.

It's really now a point where hopefully you can start to think about your phrasing when you're writing up.

And regression suggests this idea, that when you go to this world, you are travelling back in time to an environment that's not as developed as Western societies.

There's those little hints that have been presented through the setting.

There is a sense of foreboding throughout the extracts, a sense of the feelings that the reader is experiencing.

With the landscape being the source of the discomfort.

"The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish with the listing accumulating to intensify the feeling of suffocation".

With this quotation, treat it more as a rich quotation, which is that little dipping into exploration of how the language is adding to the feelings of discomfort.

As the bloom in the distance and the wooded islands are collectively personified as a mob from every angle the steamboat is presented as being surrounded by threats.

Just a single word, quotation, mob is really effective in that particular line.

As far sorry, as the writer switches to the narrator's inner feelings, we have the description of an unrestful and noisy dream being conjured in his mind.

And the final line with the description of stillness, not providing peace seems oxymoronic in nature and doubly threatening.

I really like the fact that you're all really tackling these texts and these responses are getting more and more comprehensive.

If you've managed to track through the whole of the text.


What I have given you here is a text model that actually goes into quite a lot of detail.

There will be opportunity for everybody to add to their responses.

And that's exactly what I'm going to give you now.

Having a little look through some of the ideas that we've just added, and an opportunity for you to refine your response.

What does the writer want us to know at this point in the narrative? Have a little look through the notes that you've added, take the opportunity to rewrite a sentence, maybe picking up that word, regression.

Picking out the word otherliness.

Those were really deliberately used by me in that section to try and get you to bring in some of the context.

And some of that feeling that Conrad is trying to generate.

As soon as you're ready, we can proceed.

It's a take a pause point, soon as you're ready, we start the video.

Welcome back.

Next, how does the extract develop? In this part, I would like us to do two things, I would like you to trace how the environment is presented and the narrator's response to the environment.

And I've tried to pick out some evidence to help you, and I've picked those out in orange.

And just as a little bit of a challenge.

This is additional, the main focus is on the environment and the narrator's response.

But if you can, have a little look at some of those ideas that I've picked out in purple and how these link to some of the bigger picture suggestions, thinking about the context that we looked at the beginning, thinking about what we know about four conflicts in literature.

Main focus, environment and the narrator's response, but also a challenge opportunity.

If you're already to take hat up at this point, I will, however, go through both aspects at the end, during our review.

Welcome back.

Again, opportunity for us to read through at some point response, which is going to try and bring in as many contexts as possible, so that we've gotten incredibly full response.

What you need to be checking is that you have got the main things I asked of you, which is that you track all the way through the extract and that you are evidencing your ideas indefinitely to embed those quotations.

Let's work through this together.

The writer zooms in further to describe the narrator's difficulties in navigating his way down the Congo River.

The text itself is presented as a quest narrative with various obstacles, both visible and invisible appearing in his path.

As you can see here, I've broadened the context and tried to apply some of my prior learning of the quest narrative and brought that into this extract.

Against these hidden and sunken threats, the narrator has to make use of his guide inspiration.

The guide figure that we know from the quest narrative is not a physical person, but it's almost like faith and inspiration that is helping him along his way.

The idea of this instinct or skill combined with the fact that the inhabitants of the vessel are described as pilgrims implies that, right is on his side.

And I've tried to pick up some of the information, that I had at the beginning of the session with regards to this idea of the Christian missionaries and that word pilgrim.

I could remember that, made me think of that.

There's an underlying theme of good versus evil, what we know and what we don't understand, the inner truth that is hidden, luckily, luckily.

Here, there is the sense that Conrad is uncomfortable with what he's beginning to learn about human nature.

What is civilised and primitive is not so different.

That's the bigger picture thinking.

And if we just pause and have a look at in a little bit more detail, we've got the theme of good and evil as a big picture theme, and then the realisation and just these little hints that Conrad is starting to place within the text, that within human nature, this line between civilised and primitive is not as clear as we might like to imagine.

That's why it's locally, locally hidden.

That's something that is the harder interpretation that we're working towards.

And if you have got any of those ideas, that is amazing.

I am incredibly impressed with that.

That is fantastic.

Equally, if you had a little bit, but didn't have the bravery to write it down, see if you can take those ideas on board now.

When you look at this whole section together, now is your opportunity to refine your response and maybe tackle the challenge.

You've had a few little hints as to the types of things that you might notice.

Pause the video to do that.

Soon as you're happy that you've refined your response, added in a few of those extra details, we will continue with our extract.

Then what do we learn? How is the action developed? What we're going to look at this time, is how the writer widens the perspective.

And what I'd like you to do as a particular focus, is to think about the conflict between the boat and its environment.

It seems to be a real concentration point for Conrad.

And I would like you to try and select three quotations.

Slightly different tasks this time.

Think about how the perspective is being widened.

And in particular, I want you to track and select three quotations that you think can work together very well to describe the way in which the conflict between the boat and the environment is being presented.

Over to you.

Welcome back.

Let's start with the quotations.

You don't have to have exactly what I've got.

I'm just going to show you what I've got and see whether you have something similar.

I suspect you do.

It does get to the point where we're all seeing the same patterns.

Let's see whether we can build our interpretation, cause that's the important thing.

Isn't it.

If we remember the function of these quotations in the three clouds, we have our anchor quotation and for my anchor quotation, I selected, "crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico".

Because I felt that that best described the conflict between the steamboat and it's surroundings.

The steamboat if you noticed is creeping and crawling.

It is being described with a simile of a sluggish beetle it can't move very easily and it's very small and insignificant.

In response to that, we've got the contrast of nature described as a lofty portico.

That portico, the covered walkway.

And it's like the beetle is desperately crawling its way through.

And I just thought that was a really powerful and vivid image to use as my anchor, I could also pick out the word, begrimed, it's somehow being made to become covered, almost dirty.

It adds to that insignificance and inferiority of the steamboat.

You can't battle its way through without being coated in debris and they just seems in such a precarious position.

I picked that as my anchor.

And I wanted to link out.

See what you think of some of these ideas.

I picked out it's action.

It tries to go into the silence along empty reaches, round the still bends.

And I selected this particular quotation, to link into it because I wanted to show how the steamboat has the active persona, in that it is moving.

It's going into a long round, the prep positions at telling me that it's moving.

However, it's the passive environment in silence and it's stillness.

That seems really powerful.

And I liked that contrast.

I liked the way that Conrad had flipped the idea that even without doing anything, nature is more powerful.

And then at the end of the passage, I've picked out a very short quotation.

The culmination of this says that, "as the boat is crawling its way through the jungle and things apart into it, and it sluggishly makes its way through".

It's behind him covering the way, the route that it's taken.

And it's going to bar the way.

And we get the sense that the begrimed steamboat is blocked and it's going deeper and deeper into a location that it is less and less in control of.

I picked those three quotations, because I could work across them and I could link them through.

Check what you've got.

It might be that you want to pinch one of mine, absolutely no problem.

But that is the big check.

Can you link from your anchor into your next two pieces of evidence and generate that idea, that central idea, what is it demonstrating? And what we see ultimately is the idea of the size and strength of nature and the insignificance of the steamboat and by consequence of man in its work.

Second part of the question, was about the widening of the perspective.

Let's have a little look at this together.

The narrator widens his perspective as he observes the white men emerging from tumble-down hovels and looking like they're held there by some spell.

It's lots of integrated evidence there.

Here we are introduced to a focus other than the landscape.

These are the narrator's fellow workers, but they're also described as being separate.

This is interesting, that the fellow workmen aren't connected to Marlow as he travels down the river.

And so we get a sense of separation and distance yet again, and why they're under some spell.

The spell, it emerges is the lure of ivory.

The fact they are presented as being held in hovels also implies a form of regressive behaviour on their part.

They are now lost to the primitive instincts of greed.

I've gone all out with my interpretation here, and I've really tried to bring in the context and remembering what I know of Conrad too, that he wasn't supporting the situation and he did want to critique it.

And so I can see in this description, that sense of critique that these people are somehow being taken in by that landscape.

But actually what they're really taken in by, is their own greed.

As usual now that little opportunity to pause the video, refine your responses, add extra details in.

Soon as you're ready, press play again.

And I'll be there.


What do we learn? How does the extract conclude? How is the presence of the native Congolese people presented? And I would like you to think about, how night and day are used in this small section.

It's on your little extract.

Little passage for you to look at and the use of sound and space.

It is literally one slide for you to concentrate on.

We're looking at the presence of the native Congolese people.

That there, how is it presented? And it's going to be done through night and day, use of sound and space.

Final section and what do we learn and how does the extract conclude? And it's quite a tricky one.

Let's see how we've done.

In the final section of the extract.

We hear the native people, although we do not see them.

They are represented by the sound of the drums, which are described as pervading the narrator and his companions senses.

Although the sound is only faint, it is sustained and lasts throughout the night, hovering above their heads and sitting behind the curtain of the trees.

The use of space is interesting here as the curtain shields, the narrator and his companions, from what is suggested as an even greater threat, something that sets deeper in the heart of darkness, this implies a negative depiction of the African natives.

However, the fact that the narrator does not know what the drums signify, war, peace or prayer can also be read as the narrator's appreciation of man's ultimate ignorance of one another.

I hope some of that is something that you are starting to consider.

We've got to the end of this extract and it is quite ambitious interpretation, but I do want to show you that there are stereotypes that Conrad is working with.

Because that's all he knows.

However, I think that line, "war, peace or prayer", there was perhaps a hint that he appreciates that I don't actually know.

And he does appreciate the fact that I am ignorant and that is my fault.

It's not that these people are primitive and therefore just simply a threat.

I just wanted to get that nuance into the end of the passage.

This might be one that you want to read over, it might be one that you want to adapt.

You have your usual refining time, but I really wanted to just try and tackle the idea that Conrad is both trying to push the limits, but then also limited in what he can say and do.

And that this is, as we talked about a time document.

Reflection time for you.

Really hard work today, but really positive in terms of using those skills.

And what I'm hoping is, that the underlying skills are helping you tackle what are becoming more and more difficult texts and concepts.

Really, really positive session.

Final part of today's lesson as usual, we're going to have our opportunity to just go for that bigger picture, thinking idea.

And we've got two options.

You can decide which of the four types of conflict or types of conflict have been addressed in this extract.

I hope you now realise that I don't think that every text is just one or another, that we are seeing more and more, that you can explore lots of these conflicts within any given text.

That's a really nice reflection point and try and write out your sentence in full, or perhaps a bit more challenging, but it might give you an opportunity to grapple with some of those more difficult ideas.

What issues has the extract brought to mind for you in relation to life in 2020? And I leave you to interpret that as you wish.

It could be that it's made you think about an issue that's happening right now.

We're talking about Conrad's text being time bound, have times changed quite so much? Or you could be thinking about, what do we think about historical figures? Some of you might be aware of writing that has gone on recently about Nelson's column, perhaps not being a great monument because of Nelson's families links to plantations, even Winston Churchill, and some of his behaviours other than being celebrated as the leader who took us through World War Two so successfully, have been highlighted of late.

And it might be that you want to go and look these things up now and find out a little bit more about it.

People have talked about re imagining and reconsidering historical figures of the past, and whether we can actually place modern values on them, or do we have to ascites as consider situations within that context, that's the really big issue to start playing around with.

But I think it's where we're at now.

We are ready for these ideas.

Your reflection time, take your time.

I will meet you in a moment.

Thank you for your focus today.

I'm really, really impressed by the material that we've covered and just how comfortable we're getting with these techniques.

To finish the learning for today.

You have a recap quiz to complete.

All that remains for me to say is, thank you for your focus and enjoy the rest of your learning today.