Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Charlie Marlow Quotes
"I did not betray Mr. Kurtz - it was ordered I should never betray him—it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice." (3.25)
Marlow knows that Kurtz is corrupt, but stays loyal to him anyway. Between the two evils of the Company and Kurtz, he decides to hang with the lesser evil.
"I had a cup of tea—the last decent cup of tea for many days—and in a room that most soothingly looked just as you would expect a lady's drawing-room to look, we had a long quiet chat by the fireside." (1.27)
Ah, England: good food, lots of doilies on the chairs, and "chatting" by the fireside. And Marlow wants to give up all this to go sail up a river in a jungle filled with hungry cannibals? No thanks. We'd miss our Hulu subscription too much.
"This one [coast] was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness. The edge of a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce, the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Here and there greyish-whitish specks showed up clustered inside the white surf, with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still no bigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse of their background. We pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on, landed custom-house clerks to levy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness, with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in it; landed more soldiers - to take care of the custom-house clerks, presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemed particularly to care. They were just flung out there, and on we went. Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved; but we passed various places - trading places - with names like Gran' Bassam, Little Popo; names that seemed to belong to some sordid farce acted in front of a sinister back-cloth." (1.30)
When Marlow sets out, he describes the wilderness as ominous—but mostly just big. Man seems puny beside it—his settlements "no bigger than pinheads." Individual lives seems a lot less important in a colossal jungle than they do drinking tea by a cozy fireplace.