Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"After this I got embraced, told to wear flannel, be sure to write often, and so on - and I left." (1.29)
Civilization seems to have a lot to do with trivialities like wearing flannel or writing letters. The wilderness has other ideas—more primal ideas, like impaling heads on sticks. Awesome.
"This one [coast] was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness. 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. Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved; but we passed various places - trading places - with names like Gran' Bassam, Little Popo; names that seemed to belong to some sordid farce acted in front of a sinister back-cloth." (1.30)
When Marlow sets out, he describes the wilderness as ominous—but mostly just big. Man seems puny beside it—his settlements "no bigger than pinheads." Individual lives seems a lot less important in a colossal jungle than they do drinking tea by a cozy fireplace.
"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." (1.31)
Check out how Marlow personifies "Nature" as wanting to "ward off" intruders. From this perspective, the Interior of Africa almost sounds like a woman trying to protect herself.