Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes Page 26

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How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Quote 76

"The smell of mud, of primeval mud, by Jove! was in my nostrils, the high stillness of primeval forest was before my eyes; there were shiny patches on the black creek. The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of silver—over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetation standing higher than the wall of a temple, over the great river I could see through a sombre gap glittering, glittering, as it flowed broadly by without a murmur. All this was great, expectant, mute, while the man jabbered about himself. I wondered whether the stillness on the face of the immensity looking at us two were meant as an appeal or as a menace. What were we who had strayed in here? Could we handle that dumb thing, or would it handle us? I felt how big, how confoundedly big, was that thing that couldn't talk, and perhaps was deaf as well. What was in there?" (1.61)

Okay, this is about the time that we'd be checking Expedia for last-minute flights back to civilization: Marlow starts to see Nature as a living being, too big and too eerily silent for human comprehension. But notice how he's still clinging to his Englishness—"by Jove!" and "confoundedly big" are slang phrases that seem much more appropriate to cozy fireside chats than mute, primeval forests. It seems like maybe he still doesn't quite get it.

[The brickmaker to Marlow]: "There was an old hippo that had the bad habit of getting out on the bank and roaming at night over the station grounds. The pilgrims used to turn out in a body and empty every rifle they could lay hands on at him. Some even had sat up o' nights for him. All this energy was wasted, though. 'That animal has a charmed life,' he said; 'but you can say this only of brutes in this country. No man - you apprehend me?—no man here bears a charmed life.'" (1.68)

In case you had any doubts about which side Nature is on, this passage should clear things up: the animals'.

Quote 78

"The great wall of vegetation, an exuberant and entangled mass of trunks, branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in the moonlight, was like a rioting invasion of soundless life, a rolling wave of plants, piled up, crested, ready to topple over the creek, to sweep every little man of us out of his little existence. And it moved not." (1.70)

Nature is a living, silent, immobile, and malevolent mass: we're thinking that Marlow knew about kudzu.

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