The Heart of Darkness

“The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinking of something else the while. “Good, good for there,” he mumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked me whether I would let him measure my head. Rather surprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way, talking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man in a threadbare coat like a gaberdine, with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool. “I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there,” he said. “And when they come back too?” I asked. “Oh, I never see them, ” he remarked; “and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know.” He smiled, as if at some quiet joke. “So you are going out there. Famous. Interesting too.” He gave me a searching glance and made another note. “Ever any madness in your family?” he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone. I felt very annoyed. “Is that question in the interests of science too?” “It would be,” he said, without taking notice of my irritation, “interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot, but…”

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 112

This passage speaks volumes for the rest of the story, it reveals a foreshadowing of events to come.  You can even say it foreshadows the very ending itself, with the passage, “”Oh, I never see them, ” he remarked; “and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know.” makes me think of when Marlow goes crazy in the very end, the changes that happened on the inside, the line with “interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals” foreshadows how we get to watch as readers how Marlow changes on the spot.   Also in the notes section it mentions cranial studies and how the size of ones head measures their “capacity for civilization,” I believe this is meant to imply that because of the shape of the natives heads, they don’t have the “capacity for civilization.”

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