Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Satisfactory Essays
The framing narrative

of Heart of Darkness is presented by an unnamed,

undefined speaker, who is one of a group of men, former

sailors, now professionals, probably middle-aged, on the

deck of a yacht at the mouth of the Thames River, London

England. The time is probably contemporary with the

writing and publication of the novel, so around the turn of

the 20th century. One among the group, Charlie Marlow, a

mysterious figure who is still a sailor, tells the story of

something that happened to him several years before, when

he drove a steamboat up a river in Africa to locate an agent

for a Belgian company involved in the promising ivory

trade. Most of the novel is Marlow's narration, although

Conrad sometimes brings us back to the yacht and ends

the novel there. Also, as in Wuthering Heights, the

technique of a framing narrative brings up questions of

memory: how a story is reliable when related by someone

many years after the fact, then reported by someone else.

The structure of Heart of Darkness is much like that of the

Russian nesting dolls, where you open each doll, and there

is another doll inside. Much of the meaning in Heart of

Darkness is found not in the center of the book, the heart

of Africa, but on the periphery of the book. There is an

outside narrator telling us a story he has heard from

Marlow. The story which Marlow tells seems to center

around a man named Kurtz. However, most of what

Marlow knows about Kurtz, he has learned from other

people, many of whom have good reason for not being

truthful to Marlow. Therefore Marlow has to piece together

much of Kurtz's story. We slowly get to know more and

more about Kurtz. Part of the meaning in Heart of

Darkness is that we learn about "reality" through other

people's accounts of it, many of which are, themselves,

twice-told tales. Marlow is the source of our story, but he

is also a character within the story we read. Marlow,

thirty-two years old, has always "followed the sea", as the

novel puts it. His voyage up the Congo river, however, is

his first experience in freshwater travel. Conrad uses

Marlow as a narrator in order to enter the story himself and

tell it out of his own philosophical mind. When Marlow

arrives at the station he is shocked and disgusted by the

sight of wasted human life and ruined supplies . The

manager's senseless cruelty and foolishness overwhelm him

with anger and disgust. He longs to see Kurtz- a fabulously

successful ivory agent and hated by the company manager.

More and more, Marlow turns away from the white people
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