Anchored at the mouth of the Thames river, five old friends pause their journey to wait out a tide at sundown. As they repose, they reminisce about the many great men and ships that travelled on river to complete multiple voyages for trade. Marlow’s excursion parallels that journey of the hero. He enters the Congo as an innocent sailor and leaves as a changed man. In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad creates an allegory and archetypal journey that consists of: the task, the journey, the initiation, the fall, and the unhealable wound created during the expedition.
In their recalling of the sailors, Charlie Marlow then remembers his experiences as a young man when he captained for a steamboat ship in the Congo River. He recounts how he came to being accepted as the captain and his job to fill the job of the previous captain who was killed. Marlow then joins a caravan to take him to the mouth of the Congo. However, when greeted by the General Manager of the Central Station, Marlow is told the news that he expected, “...not [seeing] the real significance of [the] wreck at once…[but then realizing] at the moment it presented itself simply as a confounded nuisance. The steamer [he was to be piloting] was sunk” (Conrad 41). As patterned in plot archetypes, the hero must perform some sort of deed in order to pass by a point in a journey. Marlow was to repair his steamboat before he could even begin his trip into the Congo. In the months awaiting the restoration of his ship, Marlow hears stories of an individual named Mr Kurtz. He was one of the greatest importance to the Limited Company for trade in the Congo that Marlow was fixing the steamboat for. Marlow was going to “give some thought to Kurtz. [He] wasn’t very interested in him. [Mar...
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Marlow gained the knowledge of the various aspects of a hero’s journey: the task, the journey, the initiation, the fall, and the unhealable wound that is left after a life-changing voyage. From hearing of Kurtz, Marlow finds himself admiring Kurtz’ success and influence on those around him, and it leads to a revolutionary change in Marlow’s character. Marlow, seen as the hero in a plot archetypal journey into the darkness of mankind, matures with new awareness found from influential men, learns of how man confronts his primitive nature when looking inside himself, and experiences a loss of innocence that leaves a wound that will healed. Kurtz’ perspective of society and man swayed Marlow initial ideals. In a sense Marlow now has replaced Kurtz, just as he did the captain, and stepped in his shoes to view the world as Kurtz did before his death.
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