Joseph Conrad was born in 1857 at Berdyczow in the Ukraine. Orphaned at the age of eleven, he left home at 16 to seek his fortune on the sea. He led an adventurous life, surviving gun-running, shipwreck and a stint as captain of a Congo steamboat. It was this latter venture which opened his eyes to the abuses of colonial power and the darker side of imperialism. These insights and experiences inform the plot and characters of Heart of Darkness, a chilling condemnation of the hypocrisy of imperial rhetoric, where the 'bringing of civilization' to 'benighted natives' hides the true extent of oppression, exploitation and hideous cruelty.