Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"One day he [the accountant] remarked, without lifting his head, 'In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.' On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down his pen, 'He is a very remarkable person.' Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading-post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at 'the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together […].'" (1.46)
Marlow wasn't too interested in Kurtz at first, but he's starting to get curious. As the details pile up—he's a first-class agent, he's a remarkable person, he sends in quantities of ivory—our hero can't help wanting to, um, explore.
"I had plenty of time for meditation, and now and then I would give some thought to Kurtz. I wasn't very interested in him. No. Still, I was curious to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all and how he would set about his work when there." (1.74)
Despite himself, Marlow becomes more and more curious about this faceless figure of Kurtz. From the brickmaker's description of him, Marlow assumes that Kurtz came out "equipped with moral ideas of some sort," probably the sort that try to justify imperialism. When compared to the godlessness of the crew surrounding Marlow, Kurtz seems like a good alternative.
"The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinking of something else the while. "Good, good for there," he mumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked me whether I would let him measure my head. Rather surprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way, talking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man in a threadbare coat like a gaberdine, with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool. "I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there," he said. "And when they come back too?" I asked. "Oh, I never see them, " he remarked; "and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know." He smiled, as if at some quiet joke. "So you are going out there. Famous. Interesting too." He gave me a searching glance and made another note. "Ever any madness in your family?" he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone. I felt very annoyed. "Is that question in the interests of science too?" "It would be," he said, without taking notice of my irritation, "interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot, but […]." (1.26)
The doctor implies that going into the interior changes men's psyches and he tries to measure their skulls before they leave. You know, for science. Marlow thinks this is all lunacy, but we suspect he might change his mind once he sees the actual skulls that Kurtz has impaled around his hut.