Conrad's Heart of Darkness - Marlow and the Wilderness

Conrad's Heart of Darkness - Marlow and the Wilderness

Length: 1073 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

Marlow and the Wilderness in Heart of Darkness


Marlow has always been mystified and curious about the parts of the world that have been relatively unexplored by the white race. Ever since he was a little kid he used to look at many maps and wonder just what laid in the big holes that were unmapped. Eventually one of these holes was filled up with the continent of Africa, but he was still fascinated especially by this filled in hole. When he found out that he could maybe get a job with a company that explored the Congo area in Africa he sought after it and got it. After all, it was as a steamship captain on the mighty Congo river. This was "a mighty big river...resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail in the depths of the land" (p. 2196). This snake like river was full of mystery to the adult Marlow and seemed to call him to it.


The wildness that the African wilderness seems to promote is foreshadowed right away to Marlow before his journey gets going. He finds out that the captain he is replacing was killed over a trading disagreement between him and a chief. It turns out that the caption thought he got a raw deal and then proceeded to hit the chief on the head with a stick, whereupon the chiefs son then stuck him with a spear and killed him. This promoting of wildness comes out in the fact that this captain "was the gentlest, quietest creature ever walked on two legs...but he had been a couple of years already out there" (p. 2196-2197).


Marlow then proceeds to head for the Congo, and when he finally reaches the company's lower station he begins to see how the white man has come to try and civilize and control the wildness of Africa and its inhabitants. The blacks were being used as slaves at the station to build railroads. The scene left Marlow feeling that the blacks "were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now,--nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation" (p. 2202). Marlow sees how the asserted superiority of the white man has led to the devastation of the black natives in both spirit and body.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Conrad's Heart of Darkness - Marlow and the Wilderness." 15 Nov 2019

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

Marlow and Kurtz: The Character Foils from In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

- ... This love of adventure did not just come about overnight. He tells his other shipmates, “Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours…there were many blank spaces on the earth and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map... I would point my finger on it and say: When I grow up I will go there” (Conrad 8). Kurtz does not display this same love for adventure; one of their opposites. Kurtz is idolized by the natives. Some people might even go as far to say that Kurtz has turned into a savage himself....   [tags: journey, love, wilderness]

Research Papers
795 words (2.3 pages)

Essay on Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad And State Of Wonder

- When an individual travels into unknown territory, their greatest chance of survival is in gaining an understanding of the land and the people that inhabit it. The natives are the people who understand the location and what simple missteps could lead to death. The natives live in a world different from the travelers, and the knowledge they carry is greater than anything brought from home. How a character adapts to the environment influences their survival and what they retain after returning home....   [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Charles Marlow]

Research Papers
1140 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

- Joseph Conrad’s s book Heart of Darkness portrays an image of Africa that is dark and inhuman. Not only does he describe the actual, physical land of Africa as “so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness”, (Conrad 154) as though the continent could neither breed nor support any true human life. Conrad lived through a time when European colonies were spread all over the world. This event and the doctrine of colonialism bought into at his time obviously influenced his views at the time of Heart of Darkness publication....   [tags: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Human]

Research Papers
1441 words (4.1 pages)

Essay on The Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

- Take a moment to think about the social corruption that has taken place all around the world. In the novella, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Kurtz is a legend and acquires the most ivory around. People believe that he is good at his job until Marlow travels to the Inner Station. Marlow finds that Kurtz has enslaved the Natives to bring him ivory, if they fail to do so, they get punished. He is viewed like a God by the Natives, Kurtz believes that they need help and guidance to civilization....   [tags: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, Corruption]

Research Papers
1212 words (3.5 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 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)

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

- 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....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays]

Free Essays
857 words (2.4 pages)

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

- Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness The main character in Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, isKurtz. Kurtz no longer obeys the authority of his superiors who believe that he has become too extreme and has come to employ "unsound methods" (Coppola, 1979; Longman, 2000). Marlow is sent to retrieve Kurtz from the evil influences in the Congo, and a wild journey on a tainted river ensues.  Along the way, Marlow learns about the real Kurtz and finds himself identifying with and becoming dangerously fond of the man....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays]

Research Papers
791 words (2.3 pages)

Colonialism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- Imperialism Exposed in Conrad's Heart of Darkness      Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' is a novel about European imperialism and its far-reaching effects. Conrad relates his personal opinions through the protagonist, Marlow, who learns a great deal about imperialism while on a journey to the African Congo. Although 'Heart of Darkness' seems to be an anti-imperialistic work, this is not entirely true. Conrad condemns the overly idealistic nature of imperialism, but does not attack Britain's competent employment of it....   [tags: Heart Darkness essays papers Conrad]

Research Papers
1005 words (2.9 pages)

The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

- The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Women have taken an increasingly important role in literature. Only recently have authors portrayed women in a dominant, protagonistic light. Sophocles and other classical writers portrayed women more as reactors than heroines. Since the ancient Greeks, however, a trend has been established that gives women characters much more substance and purpose. A definite shift from the antediluvian ways can be seen, and the overall complexity of women characters has increased exponentially....   [tags: Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness]

Research Papers
968 words (2.8 pages)

Related Searches


Marlow then heads out of the lower station towards the company's central station by foot. He notices on his journey the fact that there were "paths everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading over the empty land. The population had cleared out a long time ago." There were "several abandoned villages" (p. 2204). This again shows how the white men have affected the way of Africa and it's inhabitants. They forced the Africans out of their homes to recede deeper into the wilderness.


Once he reaches the central station Marlow begins to come to terms with more of what is Africa, as he is getting deeper in the heart of it. He notices that there is "a great silence around and above." This signifies the fact that it is uncivilized, and thus there is none of the hub-bub of traffic and industry that pollutes the civilized countries with noise. Africa is just the wilderness and its inhabitants in harmony with one another. The only noise heard is every once in a while "the tremor of far-off drums...a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild" (p.2205). Maslow notices how this very primitive sound is very powerful and appeals to the primitive emotions found inside himself. He is beginning to understand that he might have come from a place like this once, and can still somehow feel it in his inheritance.


He begins to understand this primitive past contained within the inner walls of Africa when he begins traveling once again further up the Congo River. "Going up the river arms was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, and impenetrable forest. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of the overshadowed distances" (p. 2214 & 2215). Marlow can feel the landscape begin to pull at the primitive man found within his civilized shell. It is trying to bring it back out. Marlow and the others were going into this primitive self because they were "accustomed to look on the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there [the Congo River in Africa] you could look at a thing monstrous and free" (p. 2216). Africa was indeed free of the restraints placed upon man and the earth in an industrialized and civilized world. Here, in Africa, man was free to be the very core of himself in a free, living, breathing wilderness.


Marlow does describe the land as darkness a lot, as the title Heart Of Darkness implies, but I feel it is only the darkness of what once used to be for the white man. I believe this darkness was put there to show the vanity of the white conquerors. It was put there to show their untrue belief of superiority to the black man because they were "civilized" and the blacks were "uncivilized" like men in the dark ages. I don't believe the intention of the author was to paint Africa as a place of hidden evil and savagery. He was just trying to show that this might have been where the white man once came from, but had long ago forgotten, and thus the memory is a very faint memory lost in the darkness of a very distant past in the white man's culture. In Africa, however, the White Man confronts his primitive nature once again as he once again re-enters into this long forgotten darkness and finds his true inner nature. He is not unlike the black man when it comes down to it. The situation has the only real difference in their conduct, not the nature of the people. The white man has the civilized environment as his influence while the Africans have the wilderness as their environment. Marlow and Kurtz are the ones in the story who truly realize this fact, and it shows in their behavior and actions, and it shows in their descriptions of the landscape and the African people.
Return to