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The first thing I noticed about Heart of Darkness is the unusual narrative. Although the story of Marlow is told through the lens of the narrator, it feels as though Marlow himself is the narrator. I then started to wonder the purpose of having Marlow narrating his own story in quotations; why not let the novel be told from Marlow’s perspective instead? What is the significance of having a first person narrator observing Marlow’s story?¬†Perhaps in having a third party to narrate the story, Conrad can present a more complete and solid account, though the narrator faded into the background after the first two pages and did not reappear until the last. I can’t help but think that the narrator is there just to set the scene and describe Marlow.

But after considering the theme of the story, I have come to another conclusion. In the novel, Conrad addresses controversial issues such as imperialism and racism, revealing the corruption that haunts every human existence. The fact that Conrad, an Englishman, writes about the darkness and hypocrisy of imperialism easily makes him a racist from others’ point of view. Hence, the presence of a narrator conveys how it is difficult to address such matters directly without instigating violent responses. There is a barrier to overcome in order to truly represent the darkness within.

Another thing I noticed that the sinister women who were knitting that Marlow came across. Perhaps it’s just me but I see a possible foreshadowing there, or symbolism. The act of knitting represents the entanglement and the struggles. And how difficult it is to extricate oneself….

 

One Comment

  1. Interesting point about using a frame narration to distance oneself from talking directly about a controversial topic. I’m just curious, though, how Conrad writing about the evils of imperialism might make others think he’s a racist. I can see how some other aspects of the text could do so (and I want to raise those on Friday), but how does criticizing imperialism from the perspective of an Englishman do so?

    Also, note that the narrator does come in a few times in the middle of the novel. I don’t have my book with me at the moment, but it’s not only at the beginning and end. he says a few things here and there during the story. And Marlow occasionally addresses his audience too. It’s like reminding us that we are, after all, listening to a story–a sort of metafictional gesture that says, hey, remember this is a story told to an audience from one point of view. Which makes the frame narration even more interesting and thought-provoking, I think.

    I agree with you that the knitting women are somehow foreshadowing. They are linked to death; they are knitting as if for a pall, which I think is a covering for a casket. He talks about them as if they know what will happen out there, as if they know people are going to darkness or death. And your thought about the entanglement, not being able to extricate oneself, is interesting. Once you’ve gotten involved it may be hard to pull oneself out of the activities due to the pull of greed or the thought of moral superiority. Maybe Marlow is trying to pull his listeners (and Conrad his readers) out of that by making them think more critically about what they’re doing?


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