“Hearing his ‘come in’ she opened the door and for one second hesitated, so incredible was the disorder that met her eyes. The room was so small it was just possible to walk sideways up to the bed; it was as if being condemned to the grave the doctor had decided to occupy it with the utmost abandon.” (84)
Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions, 1937. Print
Thinking of the historical change throughout the novels we have read this year, they all seem to have common themes but are presented through different ideas/mediums in the different novels. Starting with Heart of Darkness, we are opened to the inner monologues of our character, but it is all by direct reported speech through his story telling frame. And the theme itself of imperialism and colonization is something else that we see repeated in the course. In A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, we again are taken into the inner monologue of a character, but this time in the third person and mainly through free indirect discourse. And in this novel we are introduced to the bildungsroman type of story with the coming of age of Stephen Dedalus. Then in Mrs. Dalloway we again see free indirect discourse to give us thoughts and ideas of different characters, while also coming back to the idea of imperialism and war with the backdrop of World War I a constant theme. And in Their Eyes Were Watching God we still have a type of frame narrative like in Heart of Darkness, but the narrative voice is shifted from first to third, giving us more instances of free indirect discourse. This novel also brings in the ideas of nation building, race, and is a kind of anti-bildungsroman, set in the early 1900s south. And we finally end up with Nightwood, another third person narrative that uses instances of free indirect discourse while also showing this through different characters. The chosen quote I found to shed some light to the doctor, who up until this point we don’t really know too much about his history or past, but he has also been in almost every scene of the novel and given us lots of information through his dialogue and through instances of free indirect discourse.
“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.
“She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning… She had a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering. The room seemed to have grown darker, as if all the sad light of the cloudy evening had taken refudge on her forehead. This fair hair, this pale visage, this pure brow, seemed surrounded by an ashy halo from which the dark eyes looked out at me. Their glance was guileless, profound, confident, and trustful.” (pg. 152-153)
Conrad’s description of Kurtz’s fiancée is interesting. I think that including the sentence, “she was in mourning” was not necessary only because the rest of the passage clearly dictates that she is, indeed in mourning. Her “mature capacity for fidelity, belief, suffering” all seem to fall under the impression of a passive woman. The first and only real description that the reader gets of this woman is that she has the capacity to mourn. Not that I believe Conrad, or Marlow necessarily, thinks of women in that way, but the narrative description leaves that impression on me. The words describing her also remind me of a ghost. She “floated” towards Marlow, with her “fair hair”, “pale visage”, “ashy halo”. She seems to have died with him?
“The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform somberness of the coast, seemed to keep my away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had its reason, that had a meaning.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002)
The isolation of being on the sea creating a delusion over reality? In spite of it all, the ocean waves still offered a sense of calmness.
“The horror! The horror!”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 178.
In reference to the horrors that Kurtz experienced in Africa. This one quote encompasses the entire plot and in a sense makes the reader realize the same truth about life that Kurtz has.
“‘They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force–nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others.'”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002), 107.
Marlow takes the power away from the conquerors by pointing it out that they only appear strong because they pick on the weak. He makes them seem like petty bullies rather than “conquerors.”