Heart of Darkness. I. The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, . Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad. This eBook is designed and published by Planet PDF. For more . blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness . Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Adobe PDF icon. Download this document as terney.info: File size: MB What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to.
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Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad. First published in This web edition published by [email protected] Last updated Monday, August 24, at Heart of Darkness is a literary work that has been interpreted in many ways the famous Conrad scholar Cedric Watts notes, Heart of Darkness “can be related. Audio · Passage PDF heart-of-darkness//part- 1/>. Joseph Conrad, "Part 1," Heart of Darkness, Lit2Go Edition, ().
Upon emerging from isolation the visual world appeared distorted with some subjects reporting that the room appeared to be moving. Woodburn concluded, as have other investigators, that the waking brain requires a constant flux of sensory input in order to function properly. Of course, one might object to this conclusion by pointing out that, in particular, these people were deprived interaction with other people and that is what causes the instability, not mere sensory deprivation.
But, from our point of view, that is no objection at all. For other people are a major part of the environment in which human beings live. The rhythms of our intentional structures are stable only if they are supported by the rhythms of the external world. Similarly, one might object that, while these people were cut off from the external physical world, their brains, of course, were still operating in the interior milieu.
This may well be true, I suspect that it is, but it is no objection to the idea that the waking brain requires constant input from the external world in order to remain stable. Rather, this is simply another aspect of that requirement. And yet it is the capacity for such thought that is one aspect of the mental agility that distinguishes us from our more primitive ancestors.
How do we keep the nervous system stable enough to think coherently? But neither could adapt their thoughts to the world they actually faced. So they sought coherence in adapting that world to their thoughts. Each failed. These little things make all the great difference.
She wants assurances of his goodness and nobleness of spirit, which Marlow provides, despite the fact that, however remarkable he may have felt Kurtz to be, he also thought he was crazy at the end.
But that is not so, at least not unless her name was Horror. But Heart of Darkness is not a comedy sketch. It is. Anyhow, once the nexus gets good and rolling along, we have this: Then, in paragraph , we have: Kurtz discoursed. A voice! It rang deep to the very last. It survived his strength to hide in the magnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness of his heart. Oh, he struggled! The wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now—images of wealth and fame revolving obsequiously round his unextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression.
My Intended, my station, my career, my ideas—these were the subjects for the occasional utterances of elevated sentiments. What is that place?
She is the World. And so we get that bitter lie of an ending. But there is no such closure for Kurtz — he who is dead — nor for the Intended. Marlow, however, out of his attachment to the man that might have been, and perhaps out of compassion, decides that there is no point in disabusing the Intended of her illusions. With her Beloved dead, there is no Happily Ever After for her. Bowlby reconstructed psychoanalytic object relations theory using primate ethology and some simple systems concepts.
The result was the now familiar account of infant attachment. So those who try to live without exclusive ties of relationship, like the people of Oneida or the members of a monastic order, have to create a surrogate that will fulfill for them the same structural need for some ordering of priorities of concern.
Characteristically, they find it in a symbolic relationship with the same emotional connotations as a personal pond; they are brides of Christ, children of a supernatural father.
Much of ritual and story-telling, I submit, seems to serve such a purpose. And the nexus, in which the litany is introduced, samples the sample.
Attachment and Loss. New York, Basic Books. Marris, P. Attachment and Society. The Place of Attachment in Human Behavior. Parkes and J. New York, Basic Books: See this post by Harman, Latour Litany and Gibbon: Delany, The Art of Fiction No. Delany makes a point that seems obvious in retrospect, but which I had somehow missed when I was originally working on the text. From his bed in the wheelhouse, sickly Kurtz watches through the window—which Conrad has made clear has been left open. At the boat rail, the white men go on firing, and with a line of white space, the scene ends Year after year, more than half my students fail to realize that the white men have just killed the black woman Kurtz has been sleeping with for several years.
Or that Kurtz, too weak to intervene, has had to lie there and watch them do it. Suggestion for them is not an option. Earlier generations of readers, however, did not have these interpretive problems. The mistress is shot in the smoke of paragraph Lying on the couch, he stared through the open shutter. There was an eddy in the mass of human bodies, and the woman with helmeted head and tawny cheeks rushed out to the very brink of the stream. She put out her hands, shouted something, and all that wild mob took up the shout in a roaring chorus of articulated, rapid, breathless utterance.
He made no answer, but I saw a smile, a smile of indefinable meaning, appear on his colorless lips that a moment after twitched convulsively. At the sudden screech there was a movement of abject terror through that wedged mass of bodies. I pulled the string time after time. They broke and ran, they leaped, they crouched, they swerved, they dodged the flying terror of the sound.
The three red chaps had fallen flat, face down on the shore, as though they had been shot dead. Only the barbarous and superb woman did not so much as flinch, and stretched tragically her bare arms after us over the somber and glittering river. The manager was very placid, he had no vital anxieties now, he took us both in with a comprehensive and satisfied glance: I was, so to speak, numbered with the dead.
It is strange how I accepted this unforeseen partnership, this choice of nightmares forced upon me in the tenebrous land invaded by these mean and greedy phantoms. The shade of the original Kurtz frequented the bedside of the hollow sham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in the mold of primeval earth.
But both the diabolic love and the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated fought for the possession of that soul satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success and power. If we take the two statements together, we have this list: Ivory and river are physical things. But ivory is, in this usage, a formless substance, though any piece of ivory, such as a tusk, must necessarily have particular form.
But station could conceivably be abstract as well, where it could mean his position within the company, which is a matter of some discussion here and there in the story, or his station in life more generally. Those things are positions in a network of social relationships and, as such, are rather more abstract. Career and ideas are both abstract, with ideas being possibly more abstract than career.
As for the Intended, she is a person. People are physical things, of course, like ivory tusks, or rivers. But they are living things and so they have. Classically they have souls, with plants having vegetative souls, animals having additionally sensitive souls, and humans having additionally rational souls — think of Aristotle, De Anima.
She is a physical thing, like ivory, and, as the possessor of a rational soul, is capable of having ideas. That list is an ontology or at least implies one by virtue of the fact that its members span various ontological categories. That makes it a Latour Litany. Other than Marlow and Kurtz, no one in this story is named, at least not that I recall.
Nor are the river or African country named. And the Intended, of course, is a type. She was simply the Beloved. And if the Intended, the Beloved, is psychologically derived from the Mother, as various lines of thought would have it, both past and contemporary see my previous post, where I talk of Bowlby and attachment , then this figure is, in the logic of 4 5 myth, the logic of the unconscious, effectively outside time and space.
She is the occasion of the force that binds everything together into a world. Respective URLs: And indeed I don't know whether he had not been a pauper all his life. He had given me some reason to infer that it was his impatience of comparative poverty that drove him out there.
And so it sought the world and imploded on itself. Finally, I attach an appendix that contains the complete text of the nexus. Consider the following diagram. While the tale is told mostly by Marlow, Marlow does not speak directly to us, the readers. Rather, his tale is told to a group of four men aboard a boat in the Thames.
One of those, the Outer Narrator, if you will, tells it to us. That tale is the frame tale. What is not so obvious is that those intrusions happen only during the first half of the narration, but cease after the structural midpoint. That structural middle, also spoken by Marlow, I am going to call the nexus. But it is certainly mentioned. And then Guerard observes: For one thing, and this is what originally brought it to my attention, it contains material that is told out of temporal order.
And yet it is during the nexus that Marlow tells us, not simply of all the ivory they found and recovered at the station, but that they loaded it aboard the ship: He, Marlow, tossed a blood-drenched shoe overboard and had told himself that, alas, he would never hear Marlow speak: I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, you know, but as discoursing.
I didn't say to myself, 'Now I will never see him,' or 'Now I will never shake him by the hand,' but, 'Now I will never hear him. Not of course that I did not connect him with some sort of action.
Then the other shoe went flying unto the devil-god of that river. I thought, 'By Jove! We are too late; he has vanished—the gift has vanished, by means of some spear, arrow, or club. I will never hear that chap speak after all,'—and my sorrow had a startling extravagance of emotion, even such as I had noticed in the howling sorrow of these savages in the bush.
Think about it: He tossed one, then threw out a significant thought, and then tossed the other. At this critical point in the story where a man, an African, died. But I digress. The nexus. The current snatched him as though he had been a wisp of grass, and I saw the body roll over twice before I lost sight of it for ever. All the pilgrims and the manager were then congregated on the awning-deck about the pilot-house, chattering at each other like a flock of excited magpies, and there was a scandalized murmur at my heartless promptitude.
What they wanted to keep that body hanging about for I can't guess. Embalm it, maybe. Did I mention a girl? Oh, she is out of it—completely. They—the women, I mean—are out of it—should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse. Oh, she had to be out of it. You should have heard the disinterred body of Mr. Kurtz saying, 'My Intended. Yes, women are out of it but specifically, the Intended. Perhaps you will think it passing strange this regret for a savage who was no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara.
Well, don't you see, he had done something, he had steered; for months I had him at my back—a help—an instrument. It was a kind of partnership. He steered for me—I had to look after him, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtle bond had been created, of which I only became aware when it was suddenly broken. And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory—like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment.
That ends it, the nexus. And within that part we have the Litany — 'My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—' which, in its way, is a highly compressed image of the whole. A very different yarn, to be sure, but one built on the bond between a white man, in the person of Huck Finn, abused son of an alcoholic, and a black man, Jim, runaway slave.
The bond between Huck and Jim was real, but far from simple. Whatever effect Conrad was after, it required that the nexus be in more or less this place.
It had to go toward the middle.
Heart of Darkness was broken into three installments for serial publication. The nexus is in the second half of the middle installment. The whole text is something over 38, words long. The nexus starts at about 23, words in and there are roughly 13, words after it. Now, when I first spotted the temporal displacement, I thought of ring form.
Am I thus in the process of arguing that Heart of Darkness is a ring form? That depends on what one means by ring form. Consider this simple tale: The events in the tale are arrayed symmetrically about the mid-point. In Thinking in Circles pp. Metropolis, and I did not, alas, mention this in my essay, is not a canonical ring. If not a canonical ring, then what kind of ring? There is a frame, which is presided over by a fellow with a Charles-Darwin beard who discourses about evolution.
Consequently, much of the rest of the structure depends on a well-marked turning point that should be unmistakable. However there is an obvious formal distinction between the narrative before, but not after, the nexus. The Outer Narrator begins and closes the narrative, but he also intervenes at several times before, but not after, the nexus. Thus clearly differentiating the first and second halves of the narrative.
The canonical ring is one way of achieving center point construction.
Conrad used a different method in Heart of Darkness while Tezuka use yet a different method in Metropolis. Are there other methods of achieving center point construction? Why would an author employ it? Those questions, obviously, are well beyond the scope of a post that is, after all, about one specific text that uses the technique.
Heurisiken der Literaturwissenschaft: Disciplinexterne Perspektiven auf Literatur. Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition. Yale UP. If you wish to have a copy of the text with paragraph numbering, email me at: That seems unnecessary here as the next section in this document is commentary on that paragraph. In this post I offer comments on the entire paragraph, along with comments on several preceding paragraphs and one following paragraph.
My object is to demonstrate, in some detail, the range of material Conrad covers in this structurally central paragraph. But I doubt that. The boat is attacked from the shore. The helmsman is transfixed with a spear and dies, bleeding all over the floor.
Marlow notices that his shoes are drenched in blood. I have interpolated comments in italics, thus. The comments do not strive for depth. They note or ask about the obvious. Where I break a paragraph into segments to comment on the segments individually, I number the segments A, B, C, etc.
I also give the total word count for the entire paragraph, but only list that total in the first segment of a multi- segment paragraph. Before the Nexus [ I couldn't have felt more of lonely desolation somehow, had I been robbed of a belief or had missed my destiny in life. It will return again at G. Absurd be—exploded! My dear boys, what can you expect from a man who out of sheer nervousness had just flung overboard a pair of new shoes. Now I think of it, it is amazing I did not shed tears.
I am, upon the whole, proud of my fortitude. And I heard—him— it—this voice—other voices—all of them were so little more than voices—and the memory of that time itself lingers around me, impalpable, like a dying vibration of one immense jabber, silly, atrocious, sordid, savage, or simply mean, without any kind of sense. To compose himself before going on?
The Nexus Proper [A. Marlow is conversing with a young agent, an aristocrat who collected artifacts and was supposed to be making bricks. The background was somber—almost black. The movement of the woman was stately, and the effect of the torchlight on the face was sinister.
They say the hair goes on growing sometimes, but this—ah specimen, was impressively bald. The wilderness had patted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball—an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and—lo!
He was its spoiled and pampered favorite. The frontal bone, perhaps alluding to the brain behind it. That it keeps on growing, presumably alluding to hair growth after death. From bald head Marlow associates to ball, and from there to ivory, the object of this whole business.
Follow the ontology in that sequence: And elephants had to be killed to obtain those tusks. But how would burying the ivory deep have saved Kurtz? You should have heard him say, 'My ivory. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.
That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. Kurtz had become a man possessed. He was in thrall to powers of. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land—I mean literally. And talks of home England, Europe , with its familiar assurances pavement, neighbors , and its familiar worries scandal, gallows, asylum. No gossip, no policeman to keep one behaving properly. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness.
Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong—too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. I take it, no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil: Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place—and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain I won't pretend to say. But most of us are neither one nor the other.
This is a bit obscure, tough to unravel. But for the likes you and me The dead hippo — an allusion to meat brought on board the boat by some of the crew. From paragraph And, after all, they did not eat each other before my face: And that's difficult enough. Mind, I am not trying to excuse or even explain—I am trying to account to myself for—for—Mr. Kurtz—for the shade of Mr. This initiated wraith from the back of Nowhere honored me with its amazing confidence before it vanished altogether.
This was because it could speak English to me. Again, Marlow addresses his audience. Kurtz had been deprived of the opportunity, the society, to use his native tongue. All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by-and-by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance.
Now we shift gears, from Kurtz to Europe. Kurtz, though his genealogy, and through his mission, becomes a figure for all of Europe. Kurtz is Europe in its encounter with Africa. I've seen it. I've read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think.
Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his—let us say—nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which—as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times—were offered up to him—do you understand?
Kurtz himself. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might as of a deity,' and so on, and so on.
We start with the Intended, A. In E the ivory is piled on deck and Kurtz is admiring it: Now Marlow shifts to moral reflection in E, F, G oriented toward society , and H oriented toward individual character. But I rather suspect that the evolutionary psychologists can link that sense of disgust to morality.
Because Marlow could speak English. And so I simply list things as they happen. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know.
It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence— of words—of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method.
Exterminate all the brutes! What we need to think about is how those words became so utterly detached from reality. I had full information about all these things, and, besides, as it turned out, I was to have the care of his memory. And, of course, this very discourse Marlow is delivering is one of several acts in which Marlow acquits his responsibility. For it is THAT, a digression, in the sense that it interrupts the tale which, as you may recall, was in the thick of an attack, with a man just killed.
But then, you see, I can't choose. He won't be forgotten. Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance in his honor; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings: Hurry up.
Approach cautiously. Shouldn't pilgrims have expansive souls, generous souls? Now we have a crude, but only possible, equation: How could he? As far as I can see, the Kurtz side comes down to a pile of ideas while the helmsman side comes down to solid service expressed in the next paragraph and the life itself. The linkage between those ideas and the loss of that life. After the Nexus [A. If he had only left that shutter alone. He had no restraint, no restraint—just like Kurtz—a tree swayed by the wind.
That rickety equation continues, between the helmsman and Kurtz. Neither had any restraint. His heels leaped together over the little door-step; his shoulders were pressed to my breast; I hugged him from behind desperately. Again, the feet: That is, Marlow is intent on the practical business of getting out of this mess. Recall the brutal moment in Apocalypse Now when Willard shot the most likely fatally wounded woman in the sampan.
My friends the woodcutters were likewise scandalized, and with a better show of reason—though I admit that the reason itself was quite inadmissible. Oh, quite! I had made up my mind that if my late helmsman was to be eaten, the fishes alone should have him. He had been a very second-rate helmsman while alive, but now he was dead he might have become a first-class temptation, and possibly cause some startling trouble.
I take it that this is a bit of grim humor. In paragraph 88 these crewman had expressed interest in eating human flesh: Give 'im to us.
Again, the practical business of getting on with it takes precedence. A Postscript: Do it All, the Whole Text? There is, of course, a reason why I started with these paragraphs, but why not go all in? Two reasons: Up top I noted that this commentary focuses on the trees at the expense of the forest.
That problem would get worse with commentary on the whole text. Things will no doubt come to view in the process of generating all that commentary. Computer tools might help. Anyone have a graduate seminar looking for a project? This version of the post has been revised from an earlier version in which I suggested that the distribution in the first chart followed a power law. OK, but what about the other paragraphs. What about them?
I mean, that post stretched from here to Sunday. I get your point. Moretti thing? You know, distant reading.
Distant reading? You mean count something? Count what? How about paragraph length? Just do it. I mean, you already know that the nexus is the longest paragraph in the text. There must be something going on with that. Mess around and see if something turns up. I used the MSWord word-count tool to count the words in every paragraph in the text. All of them. One at a time. Real tedious stuff. Then I loaded the results into a spreadsheet and created a bar chart showing paragraph length from longest to shortest: So, what happens between paragraphs?
Integration means something like gathering together and wrapping it up in a package.
What do we do with the package? Pass it on? Tell it to someone else, like in a conversation. It looks very different from the first one. What is it? Seems that way. Oh, he said, she said. Each paragraph is one person speaking. And one person passes it on to the other from one paragraph to the next, like you said. Turn taking. Joseph Conrad.
Well, yeah, he wrote the text. But, you know, like the man said, Mistah Conrad—he dead. Something like that. Yeah, the big one. It was about social communication. We grew this brain so we could manage our social life. Something like that, something like that. I forbid it. The barest traces. Just hints. But what about Moretti, distant reading? Oh, yeah. I mean, distance is distance, but. I suppose. And the final conversation is there to the right.
And the distribution before the nexus seems to be a bit different from the one after. The whole thing looks a bit like a pyramid. Maybe later, but not now. OK, not now. What did the author intend?
But, did Conrad intend for the distribution of paragraph length in Heart of Darkness to follow an exponential distribution? If you mean conscious intention, that seems very unlikely. But those paragraphs were surely written to be as Conrad wanted them. Whatever it was that he was consciously intending, it left an unconscious trace in the text in the form of a most interesting distribution of paragraph lengths.
The Temporal Assumption Note, however, that I have been working under the assumption that word count is a proxy for elapsed time. That is, it takes twice as long to read words as it does to read words. Paragraph length, then, indicates temporal intervals. One would, of course, like to know why that is. But such questions are outside the scope of this document. Heart of Darkness was originally published serially in three installments. Some Basic Numbers: Words, Paragraphs, Means, Medians The table below shows some basic numbers.
In the right-most column I divided the median by the mean to facilitate inspection. The so-called nexus paragraph is the second half of the second section of the text. The following table lists ten longest paragraphs. Column 1 is the order; column 2 is the word count; column 3 is the section in which it occurs 1, 2, or 3 ; and the last column is the paragraph number: That second section also has by far the greatest mean paragraph length. The real action, however, is in the entire distribution.
Paragraph Distribution in the Whole Text The following chart shows the distribution of paragraph lengths as a function of their serial order in the text.
The paragraphs before the nexus seem to be longer than those after, as reflected in the means and medians given above. On the whole, the envelope of the distribution is roughly pyramidal, as I have used red lines to indicate below: We have a relatively long and uninterrupted string of short paragraphs.
The next chart shows the distribution as ordered by paragraph length: So far I have been unable to find any comparable data. I will note, however, that James Cutting at Cornell has been examining shot length in Hollywood movies and that, on the surface, seems to be a roughly comparable phenomenon. I present the distributions without comment except to observe that first, middle, and last sections of a story entail distinctly different situations.
The first section must take the reader from nowhere to a point where they can stop with some sense of satisfaction while, at the same time, anticipating what is to follow.
The final section has the opposite task, to take the reader from somewhere and leave them, in effect, back where they began, but with a feeling of satisfaction.
A middle section starts with the story in progress and ends with it still progressing. Perhaps these differing requirements account for the differences between the distributions for the three sections.
In the absence of further information, speculation on such matters is useless. First Section of Heart of Darkness 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0 0 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 Paragraph Distribution: Poems, to some degree, lend themselves to this sort of quantitative scrutiny. Novels don't — except bad ones.
Poetry is very much about manipulating the physical substance of language, rhyme and meter, and scads of other sound patterns, many of which have Greek names, etc. Where are the lists of ways and forms of language manipulation in prose fiction? We distinguish between novels, novellas and short stories.
We talk about style, and analyze it in various ways, including statistics. Nostromo exhibits a different pattern from HoD; it has a similar size distribution but a different time distribution. The Golden Bowl has still another pattern. How many such patterns are there? What are they like? Cosma Shalizi and analyzed the data and showed that it was only an exponential distribution.
Mark Liberman analyzed the distribution independently and confirmed the basic analysis. He also did analyses for Nostromo and The Golden Bowl.
Many critics responded with vigorous and sophisticated defenses of Conrad and of Heart of Darkness. As a canonical literary figure Joseph Conrad is a culture hero, at least to the public that pays attention to literary culture. Racism is bad. It therefore follows that Joseph Conrad cannot be racist.
I would like to think that we, at least some WE, have become more sophisticated in such matters and are prepared to recognize that artistic greatness sometimes comes with unpleasant traits, such as racism or sexism. One can certainly argue against him, as many critics have done. But I do not, in this post, want to enter directly into those discussions. My question is a simple one: Can we get along with Achebe, and those who agree with him, as this white man and black man get along with one another?
The white man is Sam Phillips, the record producer who first recorded Elvis Presley. The black man is Ike Turner, one of many black rhythm and blues musicians whom Phillips had recorded before he recorded Presley. The point of this exercise, no, this demonstration, is that language and its reasoning and arguments cannot, in principle, encompass everything.
That life itself is greater than language goes without saying — or does it? What matters is how we conduct ourselves around and about, in the shadow of, language. One segment of that episode features a conversation between Sam Phillips and Ike Turner. The two men obviously know one another and are comfortable with one another. They greet one another warmly and begin talking.
But you need to see and hear it to get the full effect. What ultimately matters is what these two men DO. What they say is only part of that. All this stuff was black style.
They dead on it. And even today they dead on it. What I mean now, the copying, what I meant was trying to imitate. They took the feel because they were exposed to so many of the same things, not to the extent that black people were. What they did was, they borrowed heavily from. Part 1. Heart of Darkness Lit2Go Edition. Lit2Go Edition. June 22, Next The embedded audio player requires a modern internet browser.
You should visit Browse Happy and update your internet browser today! The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.
The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits.
A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.
The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We four affectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom. Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea.
The Lawyer—the best of old fellows—had, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug. The Accountant had brought out already a box of dominoes, and was toying architecturally with the bones. Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzen-mast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol.
The director, satisfied the anchor had good hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board the yacht.
For some reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance.
The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds.
Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun. And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.
Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories.
The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and untitled—the great knights-errant of the sea.
It had known the ships and the men. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires. The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light-house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly.
Lights of ships moved in the fairway—a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars.
He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them—the ship; and so is their country—the sea.
One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny.
For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted , and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.
His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. Light came out of this river since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling!
But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina— and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink.
No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay—cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death—death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush.
They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes—he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps.
They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate.
Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men.
He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate. What saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect.
They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force— nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.
What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to.
Flames glided in the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other— then separating slowly or hastily. The traffic of the great city went on in the deepening night upon the sleepless river.
It was the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience. It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me— and into my thoughts. It was sombre enough, too—and pitiful— not extraordinary in any way—not very clear either. No, not very clear. And yet it seemed to throw a kind of light. It was very fine for a time, but after a bit I did get tired of resting. Then I began to look for a ship—I should think the hardest work on earth.
And I got tired of that game, too. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration.
Other places were scattered about the hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and. But there was one yet—the biggest, the most blank, so to speak— that I had a hankering after.
It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery— a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land.
And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird—a silly little bird. Then I remembered there was a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash it all! I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me. This was already a fresh departure for me.
I was not used to get things that way, you know. I always went my own road and on my own legs where I had a mind to go. So I worried them. Then—would you believe it? I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work— to get a job.
Well, you see, the notion drove me. I had an aunt, a dear enthusiastic soul. I am ready to do anything, anything for you. It is a glorious idea. She was determined to make no end of fuss to get me appointed skipper of a river steamboat, if such was my fancy.
It appears the Company had received news that one of their captains had been killed in a scuffle with the natives. This was my chance, and it made me the more anxious to go. It was only months and months afterwards, when I made the attempt to recover what was left of the body, that I heard the original quarrel arose from a misunderstanding about some hens. Yes, two black hens. No doubt he was; but he had been a couple of years already out there engaged in the noble cause, you know, and he probably felt the need at last of asserting his self-respect in some way.
Then the whole population cleared into the forest, expecting all kinds of calamities to happen, while, on the other hand, the steamer Fresleven commanded left also in a bad panic, in charge of the engineer, I believe. They were all there. The supernatural being had not been touched after he fell.
And the village was deserted, the huts gaped black, rotting, all askew within the fallen enclosures. A calamity had come to it, sure enough. The people had vanished. Mad terror had scattered them, men, women, and children, through the bush, and they had never returned. I should think the cause of progress got them, anyhow. However, through this glorious affair I got my appointment, before I had fairly begun to hope for it. In a very few hours I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre.
Prejudice no doubt. It was the biggest thing in the town, and everybody I met was full of it. They were going to run an over-sea empire, and make no end of coin by trade. I slipped through one of these cracks, went up a swept and ungarnished staircase, as arid as a desert, and opened the first door I came to.
Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool. The slim one got up and walked straight at me— still knitting with downcast eyes—and only just as I began to think of getting out of her way, as you would for a somnambulist, stood still, and looked up. Her dress was as plain as an umbrella-cover, and she turned round without a word and preceded me into a waiting-room. I gave my name, and looked about. Deal table in the middle, plain chairs all round the walls, on one end a large shining map, marked with all the colours of a rainbow.
There was a vast amount of red—good to see at any time, because one knows that some real work is done in there, a deuce of a lot of blue, a little green, smears of orange, and, on the East Coast, a purple patch, to show where the jolly pioneers of progress drink the jolly lager-beer.
I was going into the yellow. Dead in the centre. And the river was there—fascinating—deadly—like a snake. A door opened, ya white-haired secretarial head, but wearing a compassionate expression, appeared, and a skinny forefinger beckoned me into the sanctuary.
Its light was dim, and a heavy writing-desk squatted in the middle. From behind that structure came out an impression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. The great man himself. He was five feet six, I should judge, and had his grip on the handle-end of ever so many millions.
He shook hands, I fancy, murmured vaguely, was satisfied with my French. Bon Voyage. I believe I undertook amongst other things not to disclose any trade secrets. Well, I am not going to. You know I am not used to such ceremonies, and there was something ominous in the atmosphere. In the outer room the two women knitted black wool feverishly. People were arriving, and the younger one was walking back and forth introducing them.
The old one sat on her chair. Her flat cloth slippers were propped up on a foot-warmer, and a cat reposed on her lap. She wore a starched white affair on her head, had a wart on one cheek, and silver-rimmed spectacles hung on the tip of her nose. She glanced at me above the glasses.
The swift and indifferent placidity of that look troubled me. Two youths with foolish and cheery countenances were being piloted over, and she threw at them the same quick glance of unconcerned wisdom. She seemed to know all about them and about me, too. An eerie feeling came over me. She seemed uncanny and fateful.
Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducing continuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned old eyes. Old knitter of black wool. Morituri te salutant. Not many of those she looked at ever saw her again—not half, by a long way. Accordingly a young chap wearing his hat over the left eyebrow, some clerk I suppose—there must have been clerks in the business, though the house was as still as a house in a city of the dead— came from somewhere up-stairs, and led me forth.
He was shabby and careless, with inkstains on the sleeves of his jacket, and his cravat was large and billowy, under a chin shaped like the toe of an old boot. It was a little too early for the doctor, so I proposed a drink, and thereupon he developed a vein of joviality. He became very cool and collected all at once. Rather surprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way, taking notes carefully.
He was an unshaven little man in a threadbare coat like a gaberdine, with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool. Interesting, too. I felt very annoyed. This is my share in the advantages my country shall reap from the possession of such a magnificent dependency.
The mere wealth I leave to others. Pardon my questions, but you are the first Englishman coming under my observation. How do you English say, eh? In the tropics one must before everything keep calm. He lifted a warning forefinger. I found her triumphant. Good heavens! It appeared, however, I was also one of the Workers, with a capital— you know.
Something like an emissary of light, something like a lower sort of apostle. There had been a lot of such rot let loose in print and talk just about that time, and the excellent woman, living right in the rush of all that humbug, got carried off her feet.
I ventured to hint that the Company was run for profit. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over.
The best way I can explain it to you is by saying that, for a second or two, I felt as though, instead of going to the centre of a continent, I were about to set off for the centre of the earth. I watched the coast. Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist.
The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Here and there greyish-whitish specks showed up clustered inside the white surf, with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still no bigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse of their background. We pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on, landed custom-house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness, with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in it; landed more soldiers—to take care of the custom-house clerks, presumably.
Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed particularly to care. They were just flung out there, and on we went. The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion.
The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had its reason, that had a meaning.
Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. You could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks—these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast.
They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at. For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long.
Something would turn up to scare it away. Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts.
In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech—and nothing happened.
Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives—he called them enemies! We called at some more places with farcical names, where the merry dance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting into mud, whose waters, thickened into slime, invaded the contorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotent despair.
Nowhere did we stop long enough to get a particularized impression, but the general sense of vague and oppressive wonder grew upon me. It was like a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares. We anchored off the seat of the government.
But my work would not begin till some two hundred miles farther on. So as soon as I could I made a start for a place thirty miles higher up.
Her captain was a Swede, and knowing me for a seaman, invited me on the bridge. He was a young man, lean, fair, and morose, with lanky hair and a shuffling gait. As we left the miserable little wharf, he tossed his head contemptuously at the shore. I wonder what becomes of that kind when it goes upcountry? He shuffled athwart, keeping one eye ahead vigilantly. He was a Swede, too. He kept on looking out watchfully. The sun too much for him, or the country perhaps.
A rocky cliff appeared, mounds of turned-up earth by the shore, houses on a hill, others with iron roofs, amongst a waste of excavations, or hanging to the declivity. A continuous noise of the rapids above hovered over this scene of inhabited devastation. A lot of people, mostly black and naked, moved about like ants. A jetty projected into the river. A blinding sunlight drowned all this at times in a sudden recrudescence of glare. Four boxes did you say? It turned aside for the boulders, and also for an undersized railway-truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air.
One was off. The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal. I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clump of trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemed to stir feebly. I blinked, the path was steep. A horn tooted to the right, and I saw the black people run. A heavy and dull detonation shook the ground, a puff of smoke came out of the cliff, and that was all.
No change appeared on the face of the rock. They were building a railway. The cliff was not in the way or anything; but this objectless blasting was all the work going on.
Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps.
Black rags were wound round their loins, and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking. Another report from the cliff made me think suddenly of that ship of war I had seen firing into a continent.
It was the same kind of ominous voice; but these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies. They were called criminals, and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from the sea.
All their meagre breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily uphill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages. Behind this raw matter one of the reclaimed, the product of the new forces at work, strolled despondently, carrying a rifle by its middle. He had a uniform jacket with one button off, and seeing a white man on the path, hoisted his weapon to his shoulder with alacrity.
This was simple prudence, white men being so much alike at a distance that he could not tell who I might be. He was speedily reassured, and with a large, white, rascally grin, and a glance at his charge, seemed to take me into partnership in his exalted trust. After all, I also was a part of the great cause of these high and just proceedings. My idea was to let that chain-gang get out of sight before I climbed the hill. But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.
How insidious he could be, too, I was only to find out several months later and a thousand miles farther. For a moment I stood appalled, as though by a warning. Finally I descended the hill, obliquely, towards the trees I had seen. It was just a hole. It might have been connected with the philanthropic desire of giving the criminals something to do.
Then I nearly fell into a very narrow ravine, almost no more than a scar in the hillside. I discovered that a lot of imported drainage-pipes for the settlement had been tumbled in there.
It was a wanton smash-up. At last I got under the trees. My purpose was to stroll into the shade for a moment; but no sooner within than it seemed to me I had stepped into the gloomy circle of some Inferno.
The rapids were near, and an uninterrupted, uniform, headlong, rushing noise filled the mournful stillness of the grove, where not a breath stirred, not a leaf moved, with a mysterious sound—as though the tearing pace of the launched earth had suddenly become audible.
Another mine on the cliff went off, followed by a slight shudder of the soil under my feet. The work was going on. The work! And this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now— nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.
Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest. These moribund shapes were free as air—and nearly as thin.
I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face near my hand. The black bones reclined at full length with one shoulder against the tree, and slowly the eyelids rose and the sunken eyes looked up at me, enormous and vacant, a kind of blind, white flicker in the depths of the orbs, which died out slowly. The fingers closed slowly on it and held—there was no other movement and no other glance. He had tied a bit of white worsted round his neck—Why?
Where did he get it? Was it a badge—an ornament—a charm— a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white thread from beyond the seas.
One, with his chin propped on his knees, stared at nothing, in an intolerable and appalling manner: his brother phantom rested its forehead, as if overcome with a great weariness; and all about others were scattered in every pose of contorted collapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence.