“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea — something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…”
In an almost poetic manner, Marlow presents the basis for which conquerors wreck havoc on those they deem weaker than them. Their actions are based on an idea they have been ingrained with to follow so as not to scrutinize and keep at bay the dark truth lurking underneath.
“Black shapes, crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. Another mine on the cliff went off, followed by a slight shudder of the soil under my feet. The work was going on. The work! And this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 118.
Marlow can’t exactly make out the bodies, and realizes that this is the place where the diseased come to die.
It wouldn’t have been failure to be bankrupt, dishonoured, pilloried, hanged; it was failure not to be anything. And so, in the dark valley into which his path had taken its unlooked-for twist, he wondered not a little as he groped. He didn’t care what awful crash might overtake him, with what ignominy or what monstrosity he might yet be associated–since he wasn’t, after all, too utterly old to suffer–if it would only be decently proportionate to the posture he had kept, all his life, in the promised presence of it. He had but one desire left–that he shouldn’t be “sold.”
How might Marcher feel that he as it risk for being “sold?” Why the reliance on May to help him through his suffering?; he seems selfish in his own suffering
Henry James. “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories and Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 470.