Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[After the shed fire]: "'What a row the brute makes!' said the indefatigable man with the moustaches, appearing near us. 'Serve him right. Transgression—punishment—bang! Pitiless, pitiless. That's the only way. This will prevent all conflagrations for the future. I was just telling the manager…'" (1.60)
Nice. The so-called pilgrims' goodness pitilessly beat the black man blamed for the fire. They have no compassion for his suffering; his whimpers are registered only as a "row" made by "the brute." They treat the man like an animal, as if he will only learn his lesson from repeated beatings.
America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up I will go there.'…But there was one yet - the biggest, the most blank, so to speak - that I had a hankering after."(1.17)
Marlow wants to fill the blank spaces on the map with all his discoveries, and so he's drawn to the "most blank" of them all—Africa. (Blank, that is, unless you're actually living there.) Er, we might be reading too much into this (never!), but we think that the desire to "fill" the "blank spaces" has a kind of sexual feeling to it.
"A door opened, a white-haired secretarial head, but wearing a compassionate expression, appeared, and a skinny forefinger beckoned me into the sanctuary. Its light was dim, and a heavy writing-desk squatted in the middle. From behind that structure came out an impression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. The great man himself. He was five feet six, I should judge, and had his grip on the handle-end of ever so many millions." (1.23)
The Dutch head of the Company is never described as a whole human being. Instead, we see him only in parts—a head, a forefinger—and when we finally see him in person, he's just "an impression," like a fat ghost. Someone call an ambulance! (Or the ghostbusters.) Oh wait: right at the end, Conrad suggests that this man's greed—his "grip on the handle-end of ever so many millions"—has made him less than human.