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"The current ran smooth and swift, but a dumb immobility sat on the banks. The living trees, lashed together by the creepers and every living bush of the undergrowth, might have been changed into stone, even to the slenderest twig, to the lightest leaf. It was not sleep — it seemed unnatural, like a state of trance. Not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard." (2.13)
In this scene of madness, every aspect of the wilderness seems struck dumb, as if all of nature has turned to stone.
[During the fog]: What we could see was just the steamer we were on, her outlines blurred as though she had been on the point of dissolving, and a misty strip of water, perhaps two feet broad, around her—and that was all. The rest of the world was nowhere, as far as our eyes and ears were concerned. Just nowhere. Gone, disappeared; swept off without leaving a whisper or a shadow behind. (2.13)
If you've ever been in a thick fog, you might know this feeling: that you're the only one left on earth. (Stephen King wrote a pretty freaky book about it.) When you think about it, this is probably how Kurtz feels: that he's the only (white) man left on earth, or at least the only one worth caring about.
"You can't breathe dead hippo waking, sleeping, and eating, and at the same time keep your precarious grip on existence." (2.14)
Yep: the madness-inducing stink of rotting hippo meat is what passes for comic relief in Heart of Darkness.