Heart of Darkness (Reading Four) (27-47)
The Overheard Conversation (pp. 56-57) (27-29) (38-41)
By his third month living at the Company's Middle Station, Marlow has taken to spending most of his days and every night aboard the steamboat that he has been trying to repair. One afternoon he overhears bits and pieces of a conversation between the Manager and his uncle (28) (38-41), the leader of the Eldorado Expeditionary Force. They are talking, of course, about Kurtz. They believe that Marlow has been sent on a special mission by the Home Office in Brussels to determine what is going on at the Inner Station..
Marlow also learns that only once has Kurtz made the journey back to the Middle Station, but at the last moment, he turned around and headed back into the wilderness. Since then, the rumor is that Kurtz has been ill but hasn't recovered completely from his disease. The only hard evidence of Kurtz's behavior in the interior has been the steady flow of enormous amounts of ivory down river. At this moment Marlow says that he perceives his first clear image of Kurtz, the man.
Heart of Darkness (Reading Four)
The Voyage to the Inner Station (30-47) (41-64)
In great literature, setting, character and theme
merge together. How does Conrad's description of his jungle setting not
only characterize the psychological journey of Marlow towards Kurtz,
but also present his central theme?
Can you interpret this imagery psychoanalytically? What is happening to Marlow? How would he describe this irrational progress into a secret realm of human nature?
Discussion: Marlow, Conrad and the Problem of Racism
Yet you should also note how Marlow describes the 'cannibals' (36) who serve as his wood gatherers. Initially, he is disgusted by their taste for rotting hippo meat. He also ridicules them for accepting worthless brass rods as payment for their labor. However, as the journey continues, and their hunger increases, Marlow marvels at their restraint (38), their ability to control their behavior despite intense hunger.
Finally, Marlow reviles his helmsman (40) in the most racist terms, but after witnessing the man's agony and his final moments before death, Marlow comes to a new understanding of his kinship (46-47) with this man from a strange culture. What do they both share in common?
Is it any surprise that at this moment Marlow has a
glimpse into the
secret of Kurtz's charisma (43)?