September 22. Conrad (2).
“It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery–a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land” (Conrad 108).
Conrad often alludes to “darkness” throughout the novel, as evident in this passage at the beginning of the novel. The darkness may be referring to an individual darkness within a person, or in this case, an unexplored primitive setting. Conrad often appears to depict Africa in such a manner, making it clear as to why many critics question whether or not his writing is considered racist.
Conrad, Joseph, and Cedric Thomas. Watts. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990. Print.
“True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery—a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird—a silly little bird. Then I remembered there was a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash it all! I thought to myself, they can’t trade without using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water—steamboats! Why shouldn’t I try to get charge of one? I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me.
-Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
“It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river”.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. In Youth: A Narrative; and Other Tales. Rev. ed. Edited by Cedric Watts. Oxford University Press, 2002. p.130.
I think this shows modernity from the darkness that he seems to portray during this paragraph. It is darker and creepier which makes me feel as though it is modern.
“I did not betray Mr Kurtz – it was ordered I should never betray him – it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. I was anxious to deal with this shadow by myself alone, – and to this day I don’t know why I was so jealous of sharing with any one the peculiar blackness of that experience” (172).
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. In Youth: A Narrative; and Other Tales. Rev. ed. Edited by Cedric Watts. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Kurtz’s impression on others is shown here. I think this ties to how the natives saw him as a kind of deity, how he is to never be betrayed.
“There was a low jingle, a glint of yellow metal, a sway of fringed draperies, and she stopped as if her heart had failed her. The young fellow by my side growled. The pilgrims murmered at my back. She looked at us all as if her life had depended upon the unswerving steadiness of her glance. Suddenly she opned her bared arms and threw them up rigid above her head, as though in an uncontrollable desire to touch the sky, ad at the same time the swift shadows darted out on the earth, swept around on the river, gathering the steamer into a shadowy embrace.”
Conrad, Joseph, A. Michael. Matin, and George Stade. Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2008. 106. Print.
This passage shows the way in which Conrad represents a woman in the way an animal would be represented.
“Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was his due? Hadn’t he said he wanted only justice? But I couldn’t. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark – too dark altogether…”
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 186. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.
Conrad might be making a remark about literary modernity at the end of his story, and his frustration with deciding whether to tell people the truth through his writing, or tell them what they want to hear.
“‘You can’t judge Mr Kurtz as you would an ordinary man. No, no, no! Now–just to give you an idea–I don’t mind telling you, he wanted to shoot me too one day–but I don’t judge him’ […] He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country, because he could do so, and he had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him from killing whom he jolly well pleased” (162-3)
The Russian man’s description of Mr Kurtz reminds me of the character Tuco from Breaking Bad Season 2 (Tuco is a powerful drug lord that is seemingly insane. His friend/business associate “dissed” him, so Tuco beat him to death with his bare hands). Like Mr Kurtz, Tuco is not an ordinary man and does not have the rational of an ordinary man. Both characters use power, intimidation and murder to get the products they desire. Conducting business with Tuco and Mr Kurtz is so dangerous that even their “friends” lives are at risk. This passages suggest that ivory is not the only thing Mr Kurtz fancies, he also fancies power.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 162-3. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.
My first interview with the manager was curious. He did not ask me to sit down after my twenty-mile walk that morning. He was commonplace in complexion, in feature, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold, and he certainly could make his glance fall on one as trenchant and heavy as an axe. But even at these times the rest of his person seemed to disclaim the intention. Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy – a smile – not a smile – I remember it, but I can’t explain.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 123. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.
Throughout Heart of Darkness, there is a sense of dread and hostility throughout Marlow’s interactions with the natives and the native landscape. However, this passage jumps away from the harsh conditions and describes the manager talking with Marlow. Even here we see the same harshness expressed within a man’s complexion, defining that the dangers and hostility projected does not stop with the people who live near the river but also by the people who have journeyed there. This could imply the overall idea of the novella that darkness comes not from the native land, but of the interactions between the natives and the colonizers.