The voyage into the “Heart of Darkness” is told to us through the eyes of Charlie Marlow. As Marlow is aboard the “Nellie” he tells his story of expedition and growth. The men on the boat sit still yet bored. Marlow is like an old man sharing a story of his childhood, that for himself may be of great significance, and lead to a lesson, but the children yearn to hear a story of magic, castles and sword fights. Joseph Conrad uses Marlow’s character to get across and express his own opinion.
The story Marlow shares with the other men, is a story of reflection. It is a mirror, like most experiences are. Experiences in our lives that teach us and reveal something in our lives that had to be fixed. In this case Marlow (or Conrad) uses Africa as the mirror into the hearts of early Europeans that wished to colonize and only help profit the “less unfortunate”. What was it exactly that this unchartered land had in store for Marlow?
As Marlow tells his story we see and understand the situations Marlow faced. In his first encounter with the tribes men, Marlow steps into a “gloomy circle of some inferno”, where dark figures surrounded him. He compares this incident with that of a massacre, the starving and wasting bodies lying in “confusion”. Marlow then encounters a young black boy with a piece of white cotton string tied around his neck. This simple piece of string symbolizes the young boy’s innocence. Shortly after Marlow offers the boy a biscuit, another one of the shapes approaches the river , crawling, and drinks of the water. Marlow could not stand the sight of the suffering any longer. It was as though he felt what they were feeling and just when he was willing to help, he stands up and walks away. The path where Marlow meets those that had traveled to an unknown land, and walked uncertain of where they where but sure of what they wanted, started here.
The patchwork young man ,( the Russian) is the only one in the jungle without an interest in gaining something out of the jungle, except for his own “breathing space”. His devotion for Kurtz is an admiration out of ignorance and perhaps even innocence. Through the Russian Marlow learns a great deal about who Kurtz really is.
lighthod A Dark Heart in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
The Heart of Darkness
The Heart of Darkness has two storytellers: Joseph Conrad, the author, and the other being Marlow the story’s narrator. The narration that takes place is conceived mostly from Conrad’s opinions. Conrad is using Marlow as the embodiment of all the goodness that he represents. “But Marlow was not typical…His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence” (p. 68). “Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and with his arms dropped, the palms of his outwards, resembled an idol” (p. 66).
By doing this not only is Conrad implicates (or accuses) society of its terrible actions but he is also excluding himself. Throughout Marlow’s narrative there is no place where he ponders whether or not he has the right idea or even if his opinion is biased to his own liking. There is no way that any that we can verify the validity of his story but yet Marlow assumes his listeners and readers will believe his account. Strangely enough, after such a tale on the shameful acts of society, Marlow (or Conrad) expects us to believe his tale and maybe even attempt to change our actions.
Ironically, we can assume Marlow’s listeners and readers have been touched by this account. The story and it’s teller seem sincere but yet there is more than that. Marlow in this way has become like Kurtz, a voice that craves to be heard by its listeners. It is in this way that Kurtz and Marlow are both mouth pieces for Conrad’s voice. Conrad is questioning society for its flaws but while doing so he must also question himself. After all the crimes he’s accusing society for he must prove himself a worthy judge. Society nurtures the recognition of these crimes but it does not encourage the correction of these problems.
Both in Africa and in London, Marlow sees corruption and the paths to chaos but yet it is so much easier for him to condem the events that take place in both places than to hold someone accountable for the injustices. There is no way to finish reading The Heart of Darkness and not wonder why Marlow did not tell his tale to the owner’s of the company.