Marlows Story into the Heart of Darkness
How it works
“Marlow moves to the beginning of his story into the heart of darkness. In order to get a job at the trading company, Marlow betakes to his aunt. However, she manages to get him a job as a steamboat captain. Marlow goes to Brussels, the headquarters of the Company, to get his appointment. On his way to the company, he describes the city as a ‘whited sepulcher.’ The statement ‘whited Sepulcher’ is used to describe someone or something which is beautiful outward, but ugly and dead from the inside. As it is stated in the Bible: “for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28). That is, for Marlow, the city or the Company’s headquarters looks civilized and enlightened, but deep inside there is some darkness, hypocrisy, and evil. Meanwhile, this statement could also hint to the Company’s claimed mission to civilize and enlighten the native in Africa, whereas the company’s main goal is profit.
However, when Marlow enters the Company he sees two women knitting black wool, Marlow says that they look like they are guarding the door of darkness. The black wool represents the darkness and terror that is waiting for the employed men in the heart of darkness. And the door of darkness means the appointment that will take them to Africa or one of the other colonies. However, the conflict between light and darkness is represented in the use of colors: white and black. The use of these colors suggests different ideas: the Congo is described as a white patch, yet it is presented as the heart of darkness. One of the two women that knit the black wool wears a starched white affair which suggests her innocence and purity. The secretary at the company has white hair to suggest that he is old and wise. In short, the Company appears to be white and pure, but it is actually black and dark. It claims to send messengers of light to bring civilization to Africa, but in fact, it runs only for profit. Here, we have darkness coming out of light.
How it works
Marlow gets his appointment and heads to the Outer Station. From the early moments of the journey, he sees the reality behind the civilizing mission. He sees a group of prisoners with iron collars around their necks walking along in chains under the guard of another black man. Marlow remarks that he has seen the devil of violence, the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire. These devils symbolize the dark side of the civilizing mission and the brutality of imperialism. That is to say, there is neither enlightening nor civilizing mission going on, all he could see is torturing and suffering. Marlow feels that he has stepped into “the gloomy circle of some Inferno;” “rushing noises filled the mournful stillness of the grove” (24). That is, he feels that he has stepped into a dark, primitive, and savage place. Marlow also sees some natives whom he describes as: “Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, I all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair” (24). These black shapes are actually the natives who have been helping in the work, yet they were withdrawn to suffer and die. This means that they gave up life and hope. There is no light for them they are surrounded by the darkness of Europeans. The relationship between light and darkness again is different; we have darkness coming out of light.
The Europeans, the messengers of light have neither sympathy nor humanity. Evil exists within the European themselves. Their methods are dehumanizing. Also, the statement ‘dim light’ signifies that this light (progress, development, and civilization) is destroying the natives. Marlow states that he began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees (24). This gleam in the Africans’ eyes symbolizes their innocence. However, their innocence is established in order to show that the real criminals are the Europeans, not the Africans. These innocence Africans inwardly wants to stay alive, but they are not given this opportunity: it is not their choice to die, they were obliged to die. This gleam or light in their eyes also symbolizes their humanity. Even after all this extreme state of destruction and suffering, there is still some humanity in the Africans. Thus, the representation of the conflict between light and darkness is the opposite of the previous one. Light could come or emerge from darkness: the Africans have always lived in the heart of darkness, yet they still have humanity. Marlow also states that he did not want any more loitering in the shade, and he made haste towards the station (25). This means that Marlow does not want to remain in this darkness or in the state of ignorance. To put it differently, if he remains in the shade and dark place he might turn ignorant or savage.
In the middle of this dark place, Marlow sees a man whom he describes as a miracle. He meets a white man who turns out to be the Company’s chief accountant. This man is a well-dressed man: “I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots” (25). Everything about the man is clean, white, and light. Marlow did not expect to find such a man in this savage, wild, and dark place. Marlow refers to the fact that all the book-keeping is done at this station. This means that this man is the source of knowledge. This man is an enlightened and developed man. The use of the color white here is not necessarily related to the skin or the clothes color, but to civilization, knowledge, and enlightenment.
However, the chief accountant is described as a white person in everything, yet this elegance or whiteness is situated only to the external level: all this knowledge and civilization is only confined and limited to the surface, not to the inside. In other words, this man is beautiful and white from outside, but he is dark and ugly in the inside. This is shown through the fact that he goes out to get a breath of fresh air while the natives are suffering and dying around him. This man is a representative of the Company, of the Europeans, of the civilizing mission, but he does not care about those people. The values of the civilizing and enlightening mission exist only on the surface level. In other words, the Europeans in Africa look pure, white, and civilized, yet they are dark, savage, and brutal. Again, the conflict between light and darkness takes place.
Again, we have darkness coming out from light: savagery and darkness coming out from the civilized messengers of light. Moreover, this messenger of light has taken on of the native women as a slave. The chief accountant says that he has been teaching one of the native women about the station (26). As a matter of fact, he teaches her to take care of him and his linen; this indicates to the blackness and hypocrisy of this civilizing mission.”