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Modernism

March 29, 2016 | Author: | Posted in american literature, literature and language

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Marlow in Conrad ‘s Heart of Darkness

In Heart of Darkness Conrad tries to deal with issues which are almost inexpressible . The mysterious effect of the jungle wilderness on Kurtz and on Marlow himself , puzzles the imagination and bewilders the understanding . We might ask why Conrad chooses to tell the story through the character of Marlow , rather than simply to set it as a first person narrative . The story is , in fact , about Kurtz [banner_entry_middle]

, and about the way that contact with the primitive touches on the reality beneath human civilization , but it is also part of Marlow ‘s autobiography . Marlow is a character , not just a narrative voice , and his characterization enables us to judge and understand what he tells us . He stands for certain impressive values – the practicality of the seaman ‘s life , the belief in the value of work , the refusal to judge too quickly , and the calmness of mind which allows him to consider and respond to the ambiguities in Kurtz ‘s experience . With his detached and skeptical manner , the fruit of a life among practical things , he makes the extraordinary story as believable as is possible . We do not identify with him exactly , and he is not simply the voice of Conrad , but he is a convincing and unpretentious narrator who offers us glimpses into the ineffable

Much of the earlier part of the novel is concerned with establishing Marlow ‘s character and credentials as a narrator . The actual narrator who speaks on the first page tells us that Marlow is the sort of seaman who is trustworthiness personified (5 . But he is not typical (8 ) in that to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside , enveloping the tale (8 , which perhaps prepares us for Marlow ‘s attempt to convey to us the scale of his experience and its importance . The maritime traditions and habits of mind are central to Marlow . He values work over fantasy . At the jungle station I went to work . In that way only it seemed to me I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of life (33 , which is a vital and mature desire in him . His instincts are to reject nonsense and absurdity and stick to the real . Talking to the ridiculous agent at the station , this papier-mwchy Mephistopheles (37 , he tells us of his horror of lies not because he is particularly virtuous , but because there is a taint of death , a flavour of mortality in lies – which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world (38-9 . The agent ‘s insinuating invitation to Marlow to accept his petty corruptions meets with an instinctive shudder that speaks for his integrity . Every man wants to get on , says the agent . What more did I want ? What I really wanted was rivets , by heaven ! Rivets . To get on with the work (40 . There is something… [banner_entry_footer]

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