“I asked myself sometimes what it all meant. They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.” (27)
Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” New York: Penguin Group, 2007. Print.
“Faithless pilgrims” bearing cross-like “staves” and the imperialist/industrialist lust for ivory in this passage juxtaposes religious belief with capitalist fervor. Meanwhile, the “silent wilderness” observes all of this from an objective and timeless point of view, putting such a terrible juxtaposition into a broader context.
“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.
“His mouth was as dry as a cinder, and his face was wet with perspiration-and tears. What was it all about? He thought it must be a horrible illusion; he thought he was dreaming; he thought he was going mad! After a while he collected his senses. What did they quarrel about? That sugar! How absurd!”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002) 21.
“Then he tried to imagine himself dead, and Carlier sitting in his chair watching him; and his attempt met with such unexpected success, that in a very few moments he became not at all sure of who was dead and who was alive. This extraordinary achievement of fancy startled him, however, and by a clever and timely effort of mind he saved himself just in time from becoming Carlier.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002). 24.
Kayerts’ sense of confusion over who is dead and who isn’t anticipates his own death by suicide on the next page. Does Kayerts paradoxically save himself from “becoming” Carlier (now dead) by killing himself (dead)? By doing so, does he wash his hands of his complicity in the imperialistic process?
“I saw him extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture that took in the forest, the creek, the mud, the river — seemed to beckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 134.
Beautiful imagery about something not so beautiful. When I first read this sentence it stood out to me because of the use of language.
“Try to be civil, Marlow,” growled a voice, and I knew there was at least one listener awake besides myself (137).
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 137.
Function of the external narrative? The significance of the framing and the relationship between the main plot and the outer frame?
“He sealed the utterance with that smile of his, as though it had been a door opening into a darkness he had in his keeping.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 124.
“Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild- and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 121.
I love how Conrad depicts the sound of drums in the night, as ubiquitous as the chirp of crickets back home. The comparison to the sound of bells in a Christian country provides a human connection. While bells may be the cultural norm in Europe to announce the time, celebrate a wedding, or mourn a death, drums could be used for similar occasions by the Africans. It turns an habitual sound into a kinship which is a beautiful and wonderful thing.
“‘You are of the new gang–the gang of virtue. The same people who sent him specially also recommended you. Oh, don’t say no. I’ve my own eyes to trust.’ Light dawned upon me. My dear aunt’s influential acquaintances were producing an unexpected effect upon that young man. I nearly burst into a laugh. ‘Do you read the Company’s confidential correspondence?’ I asked. He hadn’t a word to say. It was great fun.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 127.
This passage made me laugh and interested me for two reasons. One, you can really see the type of person Marlow is because of his sense of humor that is called upon here. It is kind of a witty, mischievous humor at the sake of this brick-making man. It was interesting also to see the effect one person had on the opinions everyone else. The boss was praised and used as a judgment of others. Because Marlow came from the same place, he must also be as good as Mr. Kurtz. It is quite interesting.