The Accidental Hero: An In-depth Analysis in Marlow’s Role in Heart of Darkness

The Accidental Hero: An In-depth Analysis in Marlow’s Role in Heart of Darkness

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In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow can be seen as the hero of the story despite his alternating morals and the fact that Marlow ultimately does nothing to improve the situation in Africa. Throughout the whole narrative Marlow finds himself thrust into many shocking situations yet chooses the path of an observant bystander, giving his own opinion at the time, but no lasting action or motivation is conceived. On top of this fact Marlow’s morals are anything but set in stone; they waver innumerable times over the course of the plot. Yet Marlow is more often than not seen as the prominent hero of the plot. How is this possible? This is because readers aren’t looking for perfection in a character, but depth, and Marlow achieves this level of depth through his epiphanies and the changes that take place in his perception of the world. These revelations in turn challenge the reader to reevaluate themselves.
Marlow’s attitude towards colonization is made very clear in the first pages of the book. He is very critical about the whole process and is very cold towards affair. Marlow states: “It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. 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.” (Conrad 70). Marlow’s gains this perspective on colonization throughout his journey, thus already foreshadowing change within Marlow’s character.
Marlow embarks on a journey to be the captain of a small steamboat to navigate the Congo river for a trading company. On ...


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...or their own benefit. Thus it can be concluded that predominantly Marlow is the also the moral hero of the story.
Marlow the accidental hero in the story not just because of his status as the protagonist of the book but because of the depth of his character and just how effective he is at conveying Conrad’s messages. Marlow never strived to become the hero of his story. Nevertheless he is the hero - the accidental hero. His believable flaws and personality allow Marlow to connect personally with the reader and through his speculations provokes self-reexamination. Yes, Marlow isn’t perfect, but it is these flaws that allow space for the reader to exercise sympathy and try to understand Marlow’s situation, just as Marlow strived to understand the natives’.


Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness ; And, The Secret Sharer. New York: Signet Classic, 1997. Print.

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