Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"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." (1.30)
Marlow describes the black native Africans as "natural and true," absolutely invigorating in their "wild vitality." They seem happy just to live and, to Marlow, who feels stuck in a dream, they're comforting to watch. Gee, we're sure it must be a real comfort to them to know that they make Marlow so happy.
[At the Outer Station]: "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." (1.34)
Here, light does not reveal the truth but repeatedly "drown[s]" the true horror of the "inhabited devastation" in a "recrudescence of glare." (Okay, we admit, we had to look that one up: a "recrudescence" is a "new outbreak after a period of abatement.")
"I've seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men - men, I tell you. 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." (1.37)
Yikes. We wouldn't want to meet these guys in a dark alley. Marlow sees the slavers as devils—but we're fairly sure they wouldn't see themselves the same way. In fact, they probably see themselves a lot more like angels.