The articulateness and effectiveness of speech plays a large role in the novel. Good articulation and expression ensures understanding between two individuals. However, many of the characters suffer from poor communication. They speak too much, too little, or even in different languages. There is almost a total lack of communication between white men and the black Africans, even Marlow’s cannibals that are effectively part of his crew. For Kurtz, language is a way to justify white man’s superiority over the Africans. For Marlow, language represents a way out of madness – a way to establish contact with other human beings and thus break the isolation and lack of understanding that brings on insanity.
Linguistic expression – through either speech or text – represents one way out of madness, according to Marlow. On the flip side, those who do not express themselves well are condemned to remain stuck in the madness of the interior.
In Heart of Darkness, problems with linguistic expression – either orally or in writing – signals some fundamental lack of understanding in a character’s grasp of the situation.