Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 1 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst all these men with whom I had no point of contact, the oily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of the coast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion. The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had its reason, that had a meaning." (1.30)
Marlow's isolation from other men and the unchanging scenery of the coast lulls him into a comforting and false sense of security. In retrospect, he knows that he was living a "senseless delusion" in which nature is "a positive pleasure" and even makes sense. The further he gets into the interior, the more he becomes disillusioned.
"For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare it away. Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech—and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives—he called them enemies!—hidden out of sight somewhere." (1.30)
Marlow is going down the rabbit hole here. One of the first acts of madness he sees is a man-of-war firing at a totally empty coastline—which sounds pretty crazy to us, too.
[The Swede]: "'The other day I took up a man who hanged himself on the road. He was a Swede, too.' 'Hanged himself! Why, in God's name?' I cried. He kept on looking out watchfully. 'Who knows? The sun too much for him, or the country perhaps.'" (1.33)
Marlow gets his first taste of danger when he learns that the sun has actually driven the "Swede" to suicide. Is this a clear argument for nature making men go crazy?