Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was first published in 1899 in serial form in London’s Blackwood’s Magazine. Loosely based on Conrad’s firsthand experience of rescuing a company agent from a remote station in the heart of the Congo, the novel is considered a literary bridge between the... read more
The Heart of Darkness takes place at a flooded river in London where Marlow, one of the narrator's shipmates, tells his story about his journey to the Congo. The story takes place in the late 1800's, where the Congo was just recently discovered and mapped. And since the Congo was new to the... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The Heart of Darkness takes place at a flooded river in London where Marlow, one of the narrator's shipmates, tells his story about his journey to the Congo. The story takes place in the late 1800's, where the Congo was just recently discovered and mapped. And since the Congo was new to the world, it caused Marlow's journey to be more significant. The book portrays a neutral tone through the beginning until it dramatically changes when Marlow reaches the Congo in his story. The tone when he is in the jungle is acutely melancholy and chaotic. Marlow had no idea that the slave situation was so severe so it took him by surprise and gave the story a sense of chaos. When Marlow first comes into contact with Kurtz, he is in complete awe of his entire being. His view of Kurtz is what gives the story an admiring sort of tone because of the way the author puts Kurtz above everyone else in the book.
Marlow is a very inquisitive and adventurous person. He ventured to the Congo in hopes of going to all the spots that have not yet been mapped and to travel the river. But Marlow's personality changes when he was first exposed to the mistreatment of the slaves. He was expecting a much more peaceful and less grim situation than what he discovered. The severe cases of starvation and disease startled Marlow and caused him to be out of his element. Also, when Marlow first hears about the agent Mr. Kurtz, he becomes very determined to learn more about him. This is what drives Marlow to travel down the river after his first steamboat was wrecked. When Marlow meets Kurtz for the first time, all of his thoughts come to light as he discovers that all he heard was true. Marlow is struck in wonder by every word that Kurtz speaks and by the stories that the Russian tells him. Marlow views Kurtz as an angelic being from the moment he hears about him and through Kurtz's passing. Near the end of the story, when Marlow returns to the city, he has a new view of life. He believes that everyone was knowledgeable of only a fraction of life. That they did not fully understand what they should truly dream of and be thankful for. Marlow became this way because of his journey through the Congo, and clearly illustrates his development as a character throughout the book.
Marlow most drastically affects the plot in The Heart of Darkness. The main reason he changes the plot is because of his aspiration to meet and talk to Kurtz. All of his actions after first hearing about him revolve around Kurtz. The first major event that occurs that is caused by him is the death of his helmsman. Marlow and his crew were attacked by a barrage of arrows and savages while traveling up the river to get Kurtz. They tried to retaliate by shooting at them with their rifles but proved to be unsuccessful. While trying to open a window to return fire to the savages, the helmsman was hit by a spear on the side that soon after proved to be fatal. Marlow put the burden of his death upon himself because the journey was his idea. Marlow and his crew were close to being caught in the same situation when bringing Kurtz aboard the boat. The only reason the savages did not attack was because Kurtz, who was basically a deity to them, called them off. Kurtz later died, but Marlow was not to blame for it. But Marlow made it his responsibility to spread the legacy of Kurtz. So Marlow travels to the city to tell Kurtz's widow the way that he died. He positively affects someone else other than himself for one of the only times in the story when he does this. He tells Kurtz's Intended that the last words that escaped Kurtz's mouth prior to his death was her name. Even though this caused her to be unbelievably sad, it gave her some needed closure in her relationship with Kurtz.
The whole story is narrated by Marlow, who tells the story of his journey through the Congo to the true narrator. When Marlow first arrives, he is exposed to a type of world that he did not know existed, but eventually gets used to it. He travels to a trading station where he hears of a legendary man in the Congo named Kurtz and decides that he wants to find and talk to this man. Him and his crew travel up-river to find Kurtz and eventually find him very sick, but he is still the extraordinary man that Marlow thought he was. Kurtz dies and gives Marlow the job of spreading his legacy to his fellow explorers.
The Heart of Darkness is very odd book due to the fact that it is entirely narrated by someone who is not the narrator. This gives the whole book a unique point of view. The old-time language can make it difficult to read at times, but is definitely worth the time
“I think the knowledge came to him at last — only at the very last. But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude — and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.”
“In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the hate.”Charlie Marlow
“Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror — of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision, — he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath — ‘The horror! The horror!’”
“The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there — there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were, — No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it — this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity — like yours — the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.”
“Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you — you so remote from the night of first ages — could comprehend.And why not? The mind of man is capable of anything — because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage — who can tell? — but truth — truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder — the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff — with his own inborn strength. Principles? Principles won’t do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags — rags that would fly off at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.”
““I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. . . . He had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man.””At the beginning of the final section of Part III, Marlow has just recovered from his near-fatal illness.
““The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz’s life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. . . . I saw the time approaching when I would be left alone of the party of ‘unsound method.’””This quote, which comes as the steamer begins its voyage back from the Inner Station in the third section of Part III,
““In a few days the Eldorado Expedition went into the patient wilderness, that closed upon it as the sea closes over a diver. Long afterwards the news came that all the donkeys were dead. I know nothing as to the fate of the less valuable animals. They, no doubt, like the rest of us, found what they deserved. I did not inquire.””During the first section of Part II, Marlow watches the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, a band of freelance bandits, reequip and then depart from the Central Station.
““The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.””This quote, from the fourth section of Part I, offers Marlow’s initial impression of the Central Station.
“Droll thing life is – that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself – that comes too late – a crop of inextinguishable regrets”
“No, I don't like work. I had rather laze about and think of all the fine things that can be done. I don't like work, - no man does - but I like what is in the work, - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
“I take it, no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil: the fool is too much of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil - I don't know which.”
“Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him, - all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men.”
“I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable grayness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be.”Charlie Marlow
“You can't understand. How could you?—with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbours ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums—how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man's untrammelled feet may take him into by the way of solitude—utter solitude without a policeman—by the way of silence—utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whispering of public opinion? These little things make all the great difference.”Charlie Marlow
“Mistah Kurtz, he dead”
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