Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"I got my appointment - of course; and I got it very quick. 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… through this glorious affair I got my appointment, before I had fairly begun to hope for it." (1.21)
Nice! We love when we benefit from another person's violent death. (How do you think we got this job?) But seriously: Marlow doesn't seem particularly sympathetic, and he also doesn't appear to see that the guy's death might foreshadow his own possible fate.
"In a very few hours I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt. I had no difficulty in finding the Company's offices. 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." (1.22)
Better put away that wedding dress: white, usually a sign of purity, here is inverted to mean the exact opposite. The phrase "whited sepulchre" comes from the Christian Bible's Book of Matthew, and it refers to people who are outwardly pure and inwardly filthy with deceit. This suggests that the Company is inwardly corrupt—and it's probably true. Belgian colonies were notorious for being particularly brutal toward Africans.
"Good heavens! and I was going to take charge of a twopenny-half-penny river-steamboat with a penny whistle attached! 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 [Marlow's aunt], living right in the rush of all that humbug, got carried off her feet. She talked about 'weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways,' till, upon my word, she made me quite uncomfortable." (1.28)
Marlow's aunt thinks that Marlow is altruistic "emissary of light" bringing knowledge to "those ignorant millions." Uh, nope. Marlow calls this all "rot" and "humbug": he's not going to Africa out of the goodness of his heart, but rather to explore and help the Company profit. (This reminds us a lot of the Intended's attitude toward Kurtz at the end. Women, right??)