Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
[Marlow on the manager]: "He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a … a … faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. That was evident in such things as the deplorable state of the station. He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? Perhaps because he was never ill…He had served three terms of three years out there…Because triumphant health in the general rout of constitutions is a kind of power in itself. When he went home on leave he rioted on a large scale—pompously. Jack ashore—with a difference—in externals only. This one could gather from his causal talk. He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going—that's all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause—for out there there were no external checks. Once when various tropical diseases had laid low almost every "agent" in the station, he was heard to say, "Men who come out here should have no entrails." He sealed the utterance with that smile of his, as though it had been a door opening into a darkness he had in his keeping. You fancied you had seen things—but the seal was on." (1.52)
The manager is basically as empty of distinction as a human being can be. He has no genius, no initiative, and no talent for organizing things. Even more disturbing, he seems to have no insides—nothing for diseases to infect. Bonus: his amazing good health has allowed him to never miss a day of work! Someone print him a certificate!
[Marlow on the brickmaker]: "I let him run on, this papier-mâché Mephistopheles, and it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my forefinger through him, and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe." (1.61)
Not only do we know that the brickmaker's words are empty, but Marlow describes him as a "papier-mâché" figure, implying that he's hollow inside. (And maybe filled with tasty candy and fun prizes?)
"I had heard Mr. Kurtz was in there. I had heard enough about it, too—God knows! Yet somehow it didn't bring any image with it - no more than if I had been told an angel or a fiend was in there. I believed it in the same way one of you might believe there are inhabitants in the planet Mars." (1.61)
Kurtz's name has literally no associations for Marlow—not even your standard Martian face. Does that mean he has no expectations about Kurtz's identity, either?