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Is Jeff Campbell the answer to Melanctha’s wandering in life?

“He always found life very easy did Jeff Campbell, and everybody liked to have him with them. He was so good and sympathetic, and he was so earnest and so joyous. He sang when he was happy, and he laughed, and his was the free abandoned laughter that gives the warm broad glow to negro sunshine.”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. 63. Print.

In this particular passage, I noticed that Jeff Campbell was strikingly different from Melanctha. All throughout Melanctha’s childhood and adolescence, Melanctha strives to understand and gain wordly knowledge. While the book does not let us know what she specifically wants (I’m not sure if Melanctha even knows it herself), it is apparent that she strongly desires to understand “the secret of the world” (that is how I read it). Therefore, she wanders from guy to guy or from place to place in search of that thing she desires (whatever it may be). This passage, however, introduces a new man who finds life very easy. It made me think how different he is from Melanctha who is constantly in search of the thing that will satisfy her desire. I’m not sure if this man has already found it but it was interesting to come across a character so different from her. Also, in this last part of the passage, it describes Jeff Campbell as having this “free abandoned laughter that gives the warm broad glow to negro sunshine”. This particular description was mentioned twice before this passage and the two people (Rose and Melanctha’s father) did not have this smile. And they are two people who are no longer in Melanctha’s life. Was Melanctha searching for a person with this feature? Why this particular feature?

Childish Games of the Empire

“I kept to the track though–then stopped to listen. The night was very clear: a dark blue space, sparkling with dew and starlight, in which black things stood very still. I thought I could see a kind of motion ahead of me. I was strangely cocksure of everything that night. I actually left the track and ran in a wide semicircle (I verily believe chuckling to myself) so as to get in front of that stir, of that motion I had seen–if indeed I had seen anything. I was circumventing Kurtz as though it had been a boyish game.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 172. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

This passage continues Conrad’s thematic comparison between childishness and imperialism. Marlow’s chase through darkness in search of Kurtz mirrors the chase for ivory that he is supposed to be on, but he is preoccupied with other issues. Clearly Kurtz takes the place of the ivory in Marlow’s eyes. Marlow makes a contradictory statement by saying that he was “cocksure of everything,” but later reveals that he had at the time been unsure if he has even seen Kurtz. This image mocks the assurance of those empires who make guesses of where they can find wealth then send men to go excavate it (while “chuckling” to themselves). The parallels between his silly game and imperial conquest create a frame of both satire and criticism in Heart of Darkness.