Marlow's Assessment of Africa in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Marlow's Assessment of Africa in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Length: 857 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Marlow's Assessment of Africa in Heart of Darkness

   Marlow's assessment of the African wilderness in the beginning of the story is like that of something that tempts him and his fellow explorers to Africa. When Marlow says, "And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird - silly little bird" (Conrad, Longman 2196). If we take note of the phrase "silly little bird" it may be noted that the Marlow is comparing Britain to that silly little bird. It could be that he felt Britain's occupancy of Africa was nothing more than his own country falling into a trap. It was not a designed trap but one of destiny. It was his countries destiny to fall prey to the allures of that Dark Continent. Millions would die in the attempt to make monetary gains while occupying Africa.


When Marlow mentions "the whited sepulcher" he could be referring again to his homeland, and when he makes this statement he may be referring to the fact that Britain has sent many of its people to be buried in that deep and mysterious place referred to as the Congo. According to YourDictionary .com, the word sepulcher means, "to bury" ( In combination with the word white, referring to his Caucasian race, could Marlow be referring to the death of his fellow countrymen, or could he be referring to the death of a continent, Africa, at the hands of the white race invading her? These thoughts may both have validity when deciphering this text.

When Marlow describes the, "Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool" he may be describing the future of two races combined in utter disarray in Africa. He may be using the "black wool" as something akin to insight into what future had in store for millions of people both black and white in the Congo (Longman 2197). The "black wool" may be referring to black shards for covering the dead. It may also be an idea of not human death but the death of an area such as the Congo. He may have been sensing that the influx of his own countrymen may be taking away the spirit of that wild and forbidden Congo. Marlow's utterance of, "guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cherry foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes" could give more clues to Marlow's characterization of the African wilderness (Longman 2198).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Marlow's Assessment of Africa in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." 19 Aug 2018

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Charles Marlow: Narrating the Darkness Essay

- In Joseph Conrad's novella, the Heart of Darkness (1899), Conrad effectively presents the character of Charles Marlow through the heavy usage of Marlow's personal narration throughout the novella. By using such a method of presentation, Conrad presents to the reader Marlow's character, most important of which, his hypocrisy throughout his expedition through Africa. Marlow’s change from an idealistic European seeking work into one who has seen the “heart of darkness” is illustrated well by using him as the principal narrator, guiding the reader through his descent into madness due his sensitivity to the “darkness”....   [tags: Joseph Conrad's novella]

Research Papers
1360 words (3.9 pages)

Marlow’s Debut Role as Narrator in Joseph Conrad’s Youth Essay

- Story telling has been a means of communicating a point of view by a novelist to his readers and also of handing down tradition, folklore and culture. A story originates in the mind of an individual as he/she gives shape to his perception of an experience weaving the magic of his/her narration. A narrator brings to life images that excite the imagination of his/her listeners, enabling them to create a world which is inhabited by the characters of his/her stories which are not only meaningful, but serve to emulate human experience itself....   [tags: joseph conrad, narrators, story telling]

Research Papers
1946 words (5.6 pages)

Heart of Darkness by Josep Conrad Essay

- In Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s uses Marlow’s experiences to reflect on man’s self-realization and create a spiritual quest, both physical and psychological as he seeks Kurtz, ivory-corrupted, individual in the wilderness. Within the Heart of Darkness, Conrad creates an allegory, an archetypal story of journeys: through hell, back in time, and to the core of the psyche—the heart of darkness. Conrad’s depiction of the hell in nature becomes evident in the mist of civilization through the many descriptions within the book....   [tags: marlow, kurtz, spiritual quest]

Research Papers
1062 words (3 pages)

Marlow Journey in the Congo in Heart of Darkness by Conrad Essay

- ... In order to better understand Marlow’s mental journey and how the challenges in the jungle changed him, it is necessary to inspect the mind through the method of psychoanalysis. There are three different types of psychoanalysis the id, ego, and superego. The id is the set of uncoordinated trends. The ego is realistic and organized, it moderates the id and the super ego. The superego the part of a persons’ personality that represents the conscience. Marlow begins his journey into Africa as a “superego”....   [tags: society, ego, id]

Research Papers
715 words (2 pages)

Essay about The Character of Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

- The Character of Marlow in Heart of Darkness     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....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays]

Research Papers
912 words (2.6 pages)

Marlow and Kurtz in Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay examples

- Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness       Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness revolves around the enigmatic character of Kurtz, a renegade that has split from the authority and control of his organization, that wants to put a stop to his extreme measures and "unsound methods" (Coppola, 1979; Longman, 2000). As a result of Kurtz actions, the character of Marlow is sent to retrieve Kurtz from the desolate outback and as the reader we are lead through the involvement of a tension-building journey up the great river Congo....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays]

Research Papers
885 words (2.5 pages)

Analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Essay

- Analysis of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness is a story about Marlow’s journey to discover his inner self. Along the way, Marlow faces his fears of failure, insanity, death, and cultural contamination on his trek to the inner station. Marlow, who goes on his journey to meet Kurtz, already has a fascination with Kurtz after listening to many people along the way. Conrad tries to show us that Marlow is what Kurtz had been, and Kurtz is what Marlow could become. Marlow says about himself, "I was getting savage," meaning that he was becoming more like Kurtz....   [tags: Marlow Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Essays]

Research Papers
738 words (2.1 pages)

Marlow's Transformation in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Essay

- Marlow's Transformation in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness After returning from a voyage in the Congo of Africa, Joseph Conrad said "Before the Congo I was a mere animal," and implied that only a select few of the rest of society have risen above the animal state. Conrad had a bout with malaria, and while recovering went through radical changes in thinking. He began to despise his fellow Belgians, and for a time he was furious with them for their very existence. Leonard Dean's collection of Conrad's letters show the writer's scorn of regular society after his journey: "Everything is repellent to me here....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays]

Research Papers
1800 words (5.1 pages)

Marlow’s Metamorphosis in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- Marlow’s Metamorphosis in Heart of Darkness Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, relies on the historical period of imperialism to illuminate its protagonist, Charlie Marlow, and his struggle with two opposite value systems. Marlow undergoes a catharsis during his trip to the Congo and learns of the effects of imperialism. I will analyze Marlow's change, which is caused by his exposure to the imperialistic nature of the historical period in which he lived. Marlow goes to the Congo River to report on Mr....   [tags: Heart of Darkness]

Research Papers
3512 words (10 pages)

Marlow's Racism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- Marlow's Racism in Heart of Darkness          Heart of Darkness is an intriguing story as well as a symbol for Joseph Conrad's social commentary on imperialism.  Marlow's journey takes him deep into the African Congo where he bears witness to a number of life-altering revelations.  He beholds his most striking revelation when he begins to compare the "civilized European man" with the "savage African man."  These two opposing forces represent the two conflicting viewpoints present in every dilemma, be it cultural, social, or otherwise.  As a modern European man who believes religiously in imperialism, Marlow is inherently arrogant.  Yet, although he cannot accept the African jungle as bei...   [tags: Heart Darkness Prejudice Racism]

Research Papers
3601 words (10.3 pages)

Related Searches

A feeling of losing strength comes from, "warm pall"; pall itself meaning to lose strength. When combined with warm we may look to the Congo as loosing strength due to the white man and his economic theft from this dark land. Marlow could see this and he was disturbed.


When Marlow described the shelling of the African shore by the French man of war it was if he was in some way attempting to defend the continent even though he knew it was too late. When he said, "There wasn't even a shed there" he was pointing out the vulgarity of the white man's treatment of Africa (Conrad, Longman 2200). His use of the term "man of war" demonstrates his impression that Africa was in a state of siege by his own race. Marlow was speaking to a man of war firing on nothing but a blank shoreline, or could this have been Marlow's deeply felt complaint against a continents rape by another.


This crime against the Congo and Africa did not go unanswered. Not only a human block of resistance but also one of a proportion unequaled met those who pushed into the interior of this great and mysterious land. When Marlow describes his journey into the interior he says, "And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention" (Longman 2215). If we could visualize these men daring to enter this land facing this, "stillness" we may see that they were facing a foe not human but that of a mass of nature itself. These men faced " inscrutable intention" of the continent of Africa itself. As Marlow describes his penetration of the continent it takes on a life of its own to battle the influx of men their for economic gains rather than to help build a better place.


As we look back at this body of evidence one phrase written by Conrad may best describe what he wanted to convey through the characters of this novel. When Kurtz himself mutters, "The horror! The horror!" it is my feeling that the author was conveying the horror, not of the characters, but that of a continent and its people concerning the invasion of a foreign people to better their own economic gains at the expense of a continent and its’ people.


Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of Darkness" The Longman Anthology British Literature. Ed David Damrosch. Longman. New York. 2190-2246.

George Wilson, Founder & Chairman. accessed May, 15, 2001.

Return to