Sifting through the detailed descriptions of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness provides tremendous insight into the character of Marlow. Conrad’s words paint Marlow’s personality as selfish and steady.
Marlow can be an amazingly selfish character. You have to wonder if that was his conscious attempt to stay sane or if it was truly how he interacted. While in the outer station Marlow observed a group of Africans chained together, he had no compassion for these men he simply watched them. After they passed, Marlow, thinking nothing of it, crept into the shade and was met by a group of starving Africans dying in the darkness of the trees. At this particular moment the reader is given a glimpse in to Marlow's compassionate side. One can tell that Marlow is disturbed or distracted by the scene. He even tries to help one of the Africans by giving them a portion of bread. As soon as Marlow stepped out of the shade the image was lost. He thought no more about it and simply continued up the hill. A reader would hope that a companionate character would stop and contemplate what could be done for these people, or at least what kind of society would allow this kind of treatment. Marlow doesn't think about the starving, or suffering people, which is his way of keeping his mind steady. By not thinking of these people Marlow doesn't have to question what he is doing in Africa or what he "should" do according to the popular standard. Marlow doest care about what he "should" do Marlow just wants to discover the empty places on the map on his own personal journey.
Marlow uses natural distractions in order to keep from slipping away. He doesn't seem to be too interested in the human aspects ...
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...ation Marlow resisted the effects of the river. Marlow was always one step away from the scene; he was in his own world. By using detailed descriptions of the natural world surrounding Marlow, Conrad could pull the reader into Marlow's world. In this way he could show more clearly how he used nature to cope with his trip into the heart of darkness.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1988.
Garner, Richard. The Experience of Philosophy. Ed. Daniel Kolak, Raymond Martin. Belmont California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1996.
Hakluyt, Richard. Voyages and Discoveries. Ed. Jack Beeching. New York: Penguin, 1972.
Purdy, Dwight H. Joseph Conrad's Bible. Norman, Oklahoma: University Of Oklahoma Press, 1984
Wilson, Robert. Conrad's Mythology. Troy, New York: Whitson Publishing Co., 1987
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