Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Chapter 3 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"There was no sign on the face of nature of this amazing tale that was not so much told as suggested to me in desolate exclamations, completed by shrugs, in interrupted phrases, in hints ending in deep sighs." (3.4)
Nature is depicted in terms of nonverbal communication: "exclamations," "shrugs," "phrases," and "sighs." Each one suggests that Marlow’s tale is "desolate" or "interrupted," incomplete and perhaps unreliable.
"These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing - food for thought and also for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house. Only one, the first I had made out, was facing my way. I was not so shocked as you may think. The start back I had given was really nothing but a movement of surprise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen – and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids – a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber." (3.4)
Marlow’s lack of fear at this horrifying discovery is telling. He has become desensitized to the horrors of the interior.
"His [Kurtz’s] ascendancy was extraordinary. The camps of these people surrounded the place, and the chiefs came every day to see him. They would crawl. […] 'I don't want to know anything of the ceremonies used when approaching Mr. Kurtz,' I shouted. Curious, this feeling that came over me that such details would be more intolerable than those heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz's windows. After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief, being something that had a right to exist – obviously – in the sunshine." (3.6)
Marlow is still clinging to his morals, if only by a thread. He is no longer horrified at the thought of living in a world where evil can exist openly. He is, however, scared badly by the thought of people (like the native Africans) openly worshipping evil – as symbolized by Kurtz.