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The Character of Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

The Character of Marlow in The Heart of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness may just be the title of a book to some people, but I

believe that it goes much deeper than that. I think that this title

describes the books main character, Charlie Marlow. Throughout this story I

saw the many confusing and ever changing sides of Marlow’s character and his

heart of darkness.

Charlie Marlow appeared to be a man of great pride and civilization. He

always spoke very proper and was a classic example of a man of his time.

Throughout this novel though, this painted image I have of Marlow begins to

slowly drip away.

There were several instances where I was confused about Marlow. The first

one was at the very beginning of the story. Marlow began talking about his

childhood and how he had dreamed of becoming a captain or a skipper on one

of the glorious steamboats. He went on and on about it in such great detail

that you almost began to believe that he was a captain, though he was only

a young boy at the time. His determination and love seemed eternal, and

nothing was going to take his dream away from him. At least that is what we

were lead to believe. Marlow soon grew old and so did his dream. I slowly

saw the determination side of Marlow slipping away into the river along with

his childhood vision of being a captain. I didn’t think that something like

age would stop Marlow from taking on this challenge. After he talked about it so

much you would think only death itself would stop him. Unfortunately, Marlow

gave up and decided to move on with his life. That was the way it was going

to have to be, or so he thought.

I saw Marlow as a seemingly comfortable old man now. He didn’t have his

dream job, but he was still well off. One day though Marlow’s fantasy job

basically just fell into his lap. A steamboat captain was killed and Marlow

was not about to let another soul take this job away from him. He was fixed

to get the job, but wasn’t sure how to get it himself This is where I start

lighthod Detachment in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Detachment in Heart of Darkness

In the book Heart of Darkness, Marlowe only allows himself to

form only one bond. Marlowe allows himself to form a small “safe”

attachment to Kurtz because Kurtz is already very attached. He does not

form any other bonds. In fact, he uses his racism to eliminate the

possibility of having feelings for about ninety nine percent of the African

population. Marlowe not only looks at the African people as being to

different from him to be normal, but he goes so far as to describe

Africa as being another world, a world containing savages. He would not

let himself become attached to this land, or it’s inhabitants. Anytime

he feels himself having a relationship with anyone, he purposely stops

himself from feeling, fearing that opening himself up may result in

rejection and/or heartbreak.

He claimed that he felt a connection with Kurtz this, I believe,

is because he knew that this was “safe.” This was “safe” because he

knew that Kurtz would die before any real attachment could be made. He

also knew that Kurtz would not have the same feeling for him as he had

for Kurtz. This is because Kurtz already had two girlfriends, and a

best friend (the Russian). This was something that Marlowe could deal

with because Kurtz was already deeply involved so it held little risk

for intense attachment. This is also shown when the helmsman,

man who steers the ship, gets killed. Marlowe says that he liked that

man because he was reliable, and not mush else. He did not even shed a tear for a man that he worked everyday with for the last

six months. He simply threw him overboard, thinking about it for only a

few minutes and then, he walked away. The Cannibals on the ship were

starving. They had almost no food with them, and were not given the

opportunity to buy food. The helmsman body could have been enough food

for all of them for awhile. Marlowe, acting in character, did not care

about this. He said that it may start a bad chain of events. Because

of this all of the Cannibals went hungry for the rest of the trip.

Going along with his inability to have healthy relationships

with people and his inability to care, is his racism. This racism acts

as a good buffer against attachment.

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