Of Darkness By ConradAuthor: Joseph Conrad Setting: The storyteller, Charlie Marlow, sits on the deckof the Nellie recanting his journey to the Congo and his perception andencounter with Kurtz and Kurtz’s intended.
Plot: The telling of a remarkablehorror tale to the inner darkness of man, Kurtz/Marlow, and the center of theearth, the Congo. Charlie Marlow gives the accounts of the double journey to thepassengers on the deck of the Nellie as she is held still by the tides. KeyCharacters Charlie Marlow “Deviant” narrator (Conrad) to the reader1 We are given a visual picture of a ship, the Nellie, going out to sea on theThames.
The narrator describes the Director of Companies, like a pilot; thelawyer, by his possessions; an accountant, by his action of bringing outdominoes. But when the narrator describes Marlow he distinguishes him with aname and a physical description. The narrator seems to idolize this man, Marlow.Just the same way Marlow idolizes Kurtz.
Marlow is physical posture symbolizesBuddha. Marlow is different from the rest of the passengers. Quote: ‘He hadsunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and,with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol.
‘”Architect” narrator (Conrad) to the reader 3 The reader has beentold of the Nellie going down the Thames to the center of the earth, but theship has stalled or held back by the tides. This makes the passengers prisonersof the tale that is about to unfold from Marlow’s lips. This compares with Rimeof the Ancient Mariner, in that the mariner mesmerized the wedding guest withhis inner journey on the outer seas. Charlie Marlow is inspired by the darknessof the surrounding ships of war to recant his journey to the Congo. The narratorsays that most seamen have simply stories, but not Marlow. Marlow’s tales arelike the way a Russian nesting doll works, open the doll and there is anotherdoll inside.
The meaning and the characters are in the surrounding layers of theintended destination, Kurtz and the Congo. This gives us the structure ofMarlow’s story telling-his legacy. Quote: ‘But Marlow was not typical (if hispropensity to spin yarns be expected), and to him the meaning of an episode wasnot inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale.
..'”Visionary” Marlow to passengers of the Nellie 3 The narrator istelling of the past travelers of the Thames ‘the dark “interlopers” ofEastern trade, and the commissioned “generals” of East India fleets’.Fortune seekers and conquerors of times before are related to the ivory tradingand powering over the natives of the Congo. The sun is setting the reference ofthe coming of a dark tainted journey. Speaking of the Thames, Marlow calls itonly one of the dark places.
He is giving an introduction to his tale of theCongo. The vision of the Thames as one of the dark places is that in the end thedark shadow of Kurtz still follows him even to Kurtz’s intended’s place throughthe lie of Kurtz’s last words, her name. Quote: ‘”And this also,” saidMarlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”‘”Loner” narrator to reader 3 Marlow has just spoken about theThames-one of the places of darkness. Just as the ancient mariner was destinedto take his fateful journey alone so is Marlow. Marlow journeys into himself andwanders the sea unlike the other seamen who have land bound homes. Quote: ‘Hewas the only man of us who still “followed the sea.”‘”Rebel” narrator to the reader 4 Marlow is telling the passengers tocomprehend the journey of a young Rome conquer garbed in only a toga pushinginland to the savagery of the center.
Parallel to Marlow’s journey to the Congoarmed with only his good moral intentions of bettering the natives. Marlow ispreaching to the passengers, but is in a meditative position. His English dressand Buddha demeanor conflict in a rebellious state of contrast with theirperspective norms. Quote: ‘he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in Europeanclothes and without a lotus flower’ “Avant-garde” Marlow to thepassengers of the Nellie 6 Marlow since his youth wanted to explore theuncharted land of the Congo. When younger the map had nothing on it, but nowthere was the snake of the river that had charmed him. Conrad is paralleled withMarlow in his dream to be a seaman. Marlow had at first tried to secure a job ona ship to the Congo on his own but was unsuccessful. He had always done thingson his own power and merit.
Now, for the first time in his life he had torecruit the women to influence a certain trading society to get the job he sodesperately wanted. He calls upon his aunt who does his bidding. Quote: ‘I,Charlie Marlow, set the women to work-to get a job.’ “Conformist”Marlow to the passengers of the Nellie 23 Marlow is at the central station.The brickmaker is giving him some insight into Kurtz.
The brickmaker, whodoesn’t make bricks, is inadvertently telling Marlow that the manager is tryingto rid himself of Kurtz by neglecting him. The manager fears that Kurtz’s wouldsteal his job, because of Kurtz’s gifted talent of acquiring ivory. Marlow onlyhas an ideal of Kurtz, like a sort of religion set around the image.
Marlow hasbeen engulfed by the worship of Kurtz that he would lie for him. Quote: ‘I wouldnot have gone so far as to fight for Kurtz, but I went for him near enough to alie.’ “Judge” Marlow to passengers on the Nellie 23 Marlow doesn’tactually lie to the brickmaker he just lets him believe what he wants in regardsto the influence that brought Marlow there to save Kurtz.
Marlow judges a lie tobe appalling. Ironically, at the end of the novel Marlow lies to Kurtz’sintended to spare her feelings and he believes Kurtz to have wanted it that way.Marlow is judging the lie and his future actions. Quote: ‘you know I hate,detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us,but simply because it appalls me.’ “Critic” Marlow to the passengersof the Nellie 46 Marlow’s helmsman has died in the attack on the steamer.Marlow feels that if the helmsman hadn’t opened the shutter and panicked byshooting out at the bush he would still be alive. Marlow compares the helmsmanwith Kurtz in the way he was unable to fight off the engulfing darkness ofgreed. The helmsman showed none of the restraint in the situation that he hadshown in his control of cannibal hungry.
Quote: ‘He had no restraint, norestraint-just like Kurtz.’ “Caregiver” Marlow to the passengers ofthe Nellie 46 Marlow is describing Kurtz after the death of the helmsman.Marlow can’t express that Kurtz is worth the blood spilled on his shoes.
Marlowhumanizes the helmsman, who is a native, when he says that they had a bond. Hetook care of the helmsman by guarding his back while the helmsman steered forhim. Marlow gives the helmsman an English dignity with a seaman type burial toprevent the ravaging of his body for food. Quote: ‘He steered for me-I had tolook after him.’ “Director” Marlow to passengers of the Nellie 47The helmsman’s death has sparked talk among the cannibals of eating his remains.Marlow feels that by keeping the body it will only lower the restraint of thecrew. He takes control of the situation by throwing the body over the side ofthe boat.
He is thought to be heartless in this act, but truly he is preservingthe dignity of the helmsman and the control of the ship’s crew. The volatilesituation of fighting for the remains is neutralized as it is enveloped in theriver. Quote: ‘He had been a very second-rate helmsman while alive, but now hewas dead he might have become a first-class temptation, and possibly causestartling trouble.’ “Jester” Marlow to red-haired pilgrim 47 Thered-haired pilgrim said that they must have made a slaughter in the bush.Basically all the man did was shoot aimlessly at the tops of the trees. The manis boosting and Marlow makes a joke of the man’s ignorant pride.
The only thingthey accomplished was to make a smoke screen over the river. Quote: ‘You made aglorious lot of smoke, anyhow.’ “Dreamer” Marlow to the passengers ofthe Nellie 51 Marlow has made if to Kurtz’s camp, and has met the Russian who’sencampment he found earlier. At the campsite Marlow believes the man to beEnglish because he mistakes the Russian alphabet for cipher.
There was also awarning write to be careful from this point on. Marlow is listening to theRussian describing Kurtz, when the jungle draws him away from the currentreality, the story and that moment in the story. The jungle is sucking him intothe loneliness and darkness.
Marlow is feeling a moment of weakness, which iswhy he is spiritually lifted out of that moment in time to the dark recesses ofthe jungle heart. Quote: ‘I looked around, and I don’t know why, but I assureyou that never, never before did this land, this river, this jungle, the veryarch of this blazing sky, appear to me so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrableto human thought, so pitiless to human weakness.’ “Fanatic” Marlow topassengers of the Nellie 53 Marlow has discovered that the fence he thoughtencircled Kurtz’s camp is not a fence at all, but heads on stakes.
Thisrealization makes Marlow entranced with them. He is fixated on there appearanceand goes into grave detail. Quote: ‘I returned deliberately to the first I hadseen-‘ Kurtz “Deviant” Brickmaker to Marlow 22 Marlow is speakingwith the brickmaker of the central station. The brick maker has a painting of awoman draped and blindfolded carrying a lighted torch. Marlow inquires about thepainting and is told Kurtz painted the somber picture. Marlow wants to know whoKurtz is. ‘Chief of the inner station’ replies the brickmaker. Marlow wants moreso e is sarcastic with the man ‘you are the brickmaker’.
The brickmaker mustconcede that Kurtz is and extraordinary man, not just a simple title, but aunique individual. Quote: ‘He is a prodigy.’ “Loner” Kurtz writes 28Marlow is laying on the deck of the steamer at the central station when he overhears bits and pieces of a conversation between the uncle and the manager. Fromwhat Marlow can decipher they are speaking of Kurtz.
The uncle feels that ifKurtz is without companionship maybe the climate will kill him. The manager sayshe is alone, because he sent back his and assistant and a note. The note statedhe would rather be without anyone then the incompetent people the centralstation seemed to be able to spare. Quote: ‘I had rather be alone than have thekind of men you can dispose of with me.’ “Architect” Manager to uncle29 Marlow is eavesdropping on the uncle and manager’s conniving and deceitfulneglect of Kurtz. Kurtz’s ideals and goals for the Congo bothered the manager.
The manager quotes Kurtz. Kurtz wanted to bring civilization to the uncivilizedthrough the use of the stations. He didn’t have but a second thought of theeconomic profit when he first arrived in the Congo. This parallels with Marlow’smoral intention for the natives to have a better life with technology.
Thestations should be enlightenment for the natives to make them real people andbetter their living conditions. The stations were more like oppressors of thenatives than caregivers. Kurtz wanted a legacy of good intentions personifiedthrough the stations. Quote: ‘Each station should be like a beacon on the roadtowards better things, a center for trade of course, but also for humanizing,improving, instructing.’ “Avant-garde” Marlow to passengers 43 Afterthe steamer is attacked and the helmsman is dead, an epiphany comes to Marlow.
He may never speak to Kurtz for surely he must be dead. Through all thedescriptions of Kurtz an image is not what comes to Marlow, it is Kurtz voice.Marlow’s first impression of Kurtz is his voice.
Kurtz voice is haunting anddominant in Marlow’s mind. The presentation of a voice by Kurtz gives him thefirst control over Marlow’s inner self. Quote: ‘The man presented himself as avoice.
‘ “Fanatic” Marlow to passengers 44 Marlow thinks Kurtz isdead. He tells the passengers he would later find out he was wrong. Marlowthough he has not yet met the man, Kurtz, has his thoughts over powered byKurtz’s voice declaring his greed and possession of everything. Kurtz’s is sointent on having ivory that he steals, barters, and connives to get the preciousyellow white gold. Kurtz’s voice in Marlow’s head gives him the impression ofthe two-year-old mine syndrome. You have it, it’s mine. I see it, it’s mine.
It’s mine, mine, and mine. Quote: ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river,my-‘ “Visionary” Russian to Marlow 50 Marlow has reached the innerstation where he finds the Russian, who is extremely devoted to Kurtz. It is noaccident that Marlow meets this man here because Kurtz had planned it in orderto have an audience for his final curtain. The Russian is talking about when heand Kurtz are camping in the forest and Kurtz talks about everything to him.Kurtz acquaints the Russian with his wisdom of life. Kurtz invokes visions ofgreatness in everyone including himself.
Quote: ‘He made me see things-things.'”Survivor” Marlow to passengers 51 Marlow assumes that the Russianhad been with Kurtz since their first encounter in the encampment if the forest.This was not so Kurtz it seems that their relationship had been interrupted byevents and Kurtz’s maddening mind. Kurtz had been in the heart of this junglefor many months without necessary supplies and provisions. We learned this inthe beginning. Kurtz had suffered though two illnesses and was helped by theRussian during these times.
Through all the dangers that occurred to get to thisland of ivory wealth Kurtz had managed to continue going nothing seemed to stophim. Quote: ‘He had, as he informed me proudly, managed to nurse Kurtz throughtwo illnesses.’ “Conniver” Marlow to passengers 51 Marlow isspeaking of the Russian and the profound influence that Kurtz has had on thisman.
This was curious to Marlow because this man had the pleasure of talking toKurtz and Marlow had not, yet Marlow was profoundly effected internally by thevoice image of Kurtz. Quote: ‘The man filled his life, occupied his thoughts,swayed his emotions.’ “Oppressor” Russian to Marlow 51 The Russianis telling Marlow of the time Kurtz had wanted to shoot him for his ivory. Kurtzhad an obsession with ivory and he wanted the Russian to fear him so hethreatened him with bodily harm. Early in the novel we hear the brickmaker makethe comment he feared nothing not any man either.
He was referring to Kurtzalso. The natives feared Kurtz because they say him as a god coming in with histhunder and lighting. Quote: ‘He declared he would shoot me unless I gave himthe ivory and then cleared out of the country,’ “Conformist” Russianto Marlow 52 The Russian said that Kurtz had suffered too much and he would beghim to leave. Kurtz would agree to go but then would take off on another ivoryraid. Kurtz had conformed to the greed of the area and his own fanatic quest forall the ivory and possessions to be had from this country. Kurtz had forgot hisinitial reason for coming to the Congo to improve the natives.
Kurtz hadconformed to the native way of life by allowing them to worship him as a god. Hehad given in to the darkness of hedonism. Quote: ‘And he would say yes, and thenwould remain; go off on another ivory hunt; disappear for weeks; forget himselfamongst these people-‘ “Director” Russian to Marlow 54 There are mencarrying Kurtz out on a stretcher toward the steamer and the natives becomeincited to make a commotion. Something bad is going to happen if Kurtz doesn’ttake control of the situation. The natives feel Kurtz doesn’t want to leave withMarlow and his crew because Kurtz had ordered the attack on the steamer.
Kurtz’swords will bring order back to the procession. Quote: ‘now, if he does not saythe right thing to them we are all done for.’ “Rebel” Marlow topassengers 61 Marlow has woken up to find Kurtz has left the boat. Marlow knowshe can catch him because Kurtz is on all fours. The drumbeats and chants ofenchantment have drawn Kurtz to the surrounding encampments; they are takingcontrol of his darkened soul. It is rebellious of a sick man to leave the safetyof hope and crawl to evil. Kurtz’s soul is a rebel also because it has become byfar and away out of the norms of morality. Quote: ‘this alone had beguiled hisunlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations.
‘ “Martyr”Marlow to passengers 64 Marlow is telling of Kurtz’s final words. Upon Kurtz’sface Marlow sees every facet of his character. The pride of the cause, thecivilizing of the natives, Kurtz came to the Congo to accomplish. The immensecontrol he reeled over the natives. The oppression of mankind as related withthe ‘heads on stakes’, and the total loss of his soul to the uncivilized worldof greed and domination. Kurtz made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause hisinner most light and now he shall forever live in the heart of darkness.
Quote:’The horror! The horror!’ Theme The Heart of Darkness is more than a recantationof a journey to the inner jungle of the Congo; it is an intrinsic journey of theself and evil that lies dormant within all human souls. Unfortunately the evilcan be expelled and used until it envelops the whole of our being. The evil ofgreed for the possession of ivory and power engulf Kurtz. He shows this with thequote ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my-‘.
When Marlow’s helmsmandies he compares the helmsman with Kurtz in the way he was unable to fight offthe engulfing darkness of greed. The helmsman dies in an attack on the steamerjust miles away from Kurtz’s camp. The helmsman showed no restraint only terrorby opening the shutter of the pilothouse to aimlessly shooting at the darknessof the bush.
This remarkable horror tale to the inner darkness of man isengrossed and exploited by the physical journey to the Congo. The narrator saysthat most seamen have simply stories, but not Marlow. Marlow’s tales are likethe way a Russian nesting doll works, open the doll and there is another dollinside. The meaning and the characters are in the surrounding layers of theintended destination, Kurtz and the Congo. The quote ‘to him the meaning of anepisode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale…’ showsthe point of the surrounding layers of the journey.
The symbol of Marlow asBuddha gives insight to an inner journey through meditation. The journey has the’notion of being captured by the incredible’ the utmost epiphany of the ‘essenceof dreams’. The deeper we travel into the novel and the Congo with Marlow thecloser we come to our inner evil. When Marlow looks upon Kurtz’s dying face hesees every facet of the inner journey. The pride of the cause, the civilizing ofthe natives, Kurtz came to the Congo to accomplish. The immense control Kurtzreeled over the natives.
The oppression of mankind as related with the ‘heads onstakes’, and the total loss of Kurtz’s soul to the uncivilized world of greedand domination. Kurtz made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause his inner mostlight and now he shall forever live in the heart of darkness. Kurtz horror isthe ultimate evil the vision of the devil within his very life force. In the endof the novel the dark shadow of Kurtz and the Congo follow Marlow to Kurtz’sIntended, where Marlow goes against his morals and lies to her about Kurtz’slast words. Kurtz uttered ‘the horror the horror’, but Marlow tells the Intendedit was her name that escaped in his final breath.
The quote that incites thistheme is ‘The vision seemed to enter the house with me…like the beating of aheart-the heart of conquering darkness.’ 68