The research concerning this novella has been carried out in many directions; it has been compared to Dent’s Inferno (Gentlefolk 2007, 12) and is said to have anticipated Freudian ideas of psychoanalysis (ibid. 14), it is discussed Neither its main intention is to portray an image of Africa (as envisioned in Europe), the decay of European imperialism or – on a more individual level – the development and inner conflict of a subject, namely Marrow, the latter leading to the novella even Ewing viewed as a Bloodcurdling (Chair 2004, 183).
A further point of inquiry deals Ninth the portrayal of Africa and Africans in Concord’s work; here, China Achebe’s essay has been of particular interest as he, firstly and most prominently, questions the legitimacy of Heart of Darkness being part of the literary canon and accuses Conrad of being a xenophobe (1988, 269) and a “thoroughgoing racist” (ibid. 267). To him the novella is “offensive and deplorable” and not worthy of being titled one of the greatest works in the English language (ibid. 68). While Achebe’s ideas have also met eroticism, through their provocative nature they have nevertheless forced readers to address the issue of racism and imperialism in Heart of Darkness critically. Despite this extensive and controversial postcolonial reception of Heart of Darkness, it is still questionable whether the novella can provide an answer to the question of how imperialism and colonial domination is portrayed and evaluated in the text itself.
To determine its attitude towards imperialism, the characters and the background of the author himself have most often been taken as a basis for analysis. He aim of this paper is therefore to address this question from a different angle and to show, that the image of imperialism Heart of Darkness conveys is already portrayed as ambivalent through the narrative form and the symbolism it contains. Hence, I will focus on the level of narrative discourse 3 rather than the story.
To substantiate this statement, the narrative form and situation with regard to a few selected narrative techniques will be analyzed and the ambiguity resulting from the main narrator Marrow being a somewhat ‘unreliable narrator’ will be shown. In chapter three, the equivocal impression regarding imperialism will be proven through an analysis of how imagery functions. For this purpose, I will especially focus on the portrayal of landscapes in the novella and the ambiguities resulting from contrasting visual and aural impressions.
The examination of these points will also demonstrate how Concord’s work has been Justly titled the first modern novel’, as it portrays the awareness of standing on a threshold of times, a turning point in history, where the negative effects of imperialism are already visible, yet the question, what will follow instead of it, still remains and how – o use Marrows words – the time after imperialism is the actual ‘blank space’. Ambivalence’s resulting from narrative aspects ere ambivalence of imperialism and the uncertainty of its aftermath in Heart of Darkness are already mirrored in the narrative form of the novella.
Brooks emphasizes the importance of the structure by arguing that the novella must be read ‘as act of narration even more than as narrative or a story’ (1984, 261). Marrows narrative is framed by the narration of the anonymous narrator on board of the Nellie, while Marrow himself retells the story of Kurt. Yet speaking of a clear framing the novella is misleading, as neither the first narrator’s nor Marrows narrative are logically structured and wholly concluded.
The typical framed story would, according to Brooks, “present a set of nested boxes, a set of brackets within brackets”, Northerner every narrative would enclose the following one (ibid. 351). In Heart of narrator’s fulfill this pattern, hence the respective frames remain open (ibid. 351). This can already be seen at the beginning of Marrows narration, as he interrupts the prior narrative of his fellow seaman: “And this also,’ said Marrow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth”l .
Marrows first abrupt remark disrupts the clear frame of a first narrator Introducing the narrative of a second narrator and leaves an impression of incoherence. Taking into account the story of the anonymous narrator here, it is peculiar that Marrow interrupts him at a point where he muses about “all the men of Moon the nation is proud knights all, titled and untitled – the great knights- errant of the sea” (HAD 4) who sailed on the Thames, hence about all the men who performed imperialistic acts.
Paula also claims that the unnamed narrator obtains an imperialistic point of view at the beginning (2004, 31). Marrows insertion – in Inch he seems to read the mind of his fellow seaman and follow his train of thoughts – is then not Just an interruption of his narrative but also constitutes a semantic break, as he then titles the origin of these glorious triumphs ‘one of the dark places of the earth’. The fact that Marrow interrupts this imperialistic view of the unnamed narrator both on the level of discourse and story already casts a doubt on the Justification of imperialism.
Marrows embedded narrative in turn is then frequently punctuated with comments from the first narrator, whereby Marrow most often Just breaks off in the middle of his narrative and even sentences. According to Valued Moses, the “shifting levels of interpolated and mediated narrative” as well as the “fragmentary and elliptic dialogue” moreover constitute highly innovative narrative techniques (2007, 55). These have been previously identified in Concord’s Nor by Watt as manipulation of point of view (1981 , 63), anchor and progression defect (ibid. 300 if. ). He intertwining of narratives, the fractured image Marrows account therefore gains and the resulting absence of absolute coherence and conclusion are in stark contrast to the forceful, Multistoried and organized acts of imperialism and are therefore all the more salient. It can be interpreted as a hint for the system dissolving itself from the inside and hence poses the question of what will follow after colonialism. Not only can ambiguities be drawn from the relationship between the frame and Marrows narrative, but moreover Marrows narration itself emphasizes the ambivalent image Imperialism has in Heart of Darkness.
Constituting the major 1 Conrad, Joseph.  2007. “Heart of Darkness”. Heart of Darkness and The Congo Diary. De. Owen Knowles and Robert Hampton. London: Penguin, p. 5. In the text compare HAD 33, 58, 59 part of the novella, its power and domination of the text are indisputable. According to Said, imperialism itself is paralleled in Marrows narrative, with its “sheer historical momentum, the temporal forward movement” (1994, 25) and its “oppressive force” Inch “leaves us with a quite accurate sense that there is no way out of the sovereign historical force of imperialism” (ibid. 26).
Yet on closer examination of Marrows narrative, this alleged imperial force to it is somewhat mitigated. While Marrows narrative indeed pushes the story forward, this does not always take place in a trickily orderly, logical fashion but is rather marked by a fractured, elliptic syntax and interrupted by many pauses. This is most prominently emphasized through the frequent use of dashes, which often function as a tool for Marrow to restrain himself and reformulate his utterances. Through these parentheses, Marrows account becomes less forceful; through their conveying of Marrows hesitation one is forced to question the content, too.
When Marrow describes the effect his Journey had on him to his narrates, the ineffability of his experiences is clearly visible through the use of ashes:3 It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me -and Into my thoughts. It was somber enough, too and pitiful not extraordinary in any Nay not very clear either (HAD 8). ere dash here functions as a method to demonstrate Marrows troubles with articulating his encounters; he himself seems to lack understanding of the events in the Congo.
As Marrow is the sole source of information, his somewhat incoherent account and his hesitation in the description also cast doubts on the imperial mission he narrates. Another use of the dash is made to introduce contrasting actions; this is visible in Marrows description of the early colonists, “[t]hey were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force – nothing to boast of, when you have it” (HAD 7), and the Congo River, “[a]ND the river was there fascinating – deadly – like a snake” (HAD 11).
The resulting hesitation on the one hand and the contradictory descriptions introduced by the dash on the other weaken the supposedly ‘oppressive force’ of Marrows monologue and leave a quite ambiguous impression of his tale. His narrative can therefore not be equated with the all-enveloping force of imperialism, UT rather undermines it to some extent. According to Gentlefolk, this effect is also achieved by Concord’s use of adjectives that “describe the indescribable”, such as ineffable and incomprehensible (2007, 41).
The open frames of the narratives, the missing clear-cut boundaries between the Interruptions and incoherence – bestow a somewhat ambiguous light upon the narrated imperialistic acts. How these ambivalence are further strengthened by Marrows status as a narrator will be analyzed in the next chapter. Marrow – an unreliable narrator? Or further highlight the ambiguity of imperialism in Heart of Darkness through scrappiness in the narrative form, this chapter is concerned with Charlie Marrow in his function as narrator and the credibility of his account.
As the story is presented mostly through his narrative and an omniscient narrator is missing in the novella altogether, his view, albeit limited, is the only one the reader depends on. To Interpret the events Marrow recounts, it is crucial to determine his degree of reliability and if and to what extent he can be titled an ‘unreliable narrator’. Booth considers a narrator “reliable when he speaks for or acts in accordance with the arms of the work unreliable when he does not” and argues that “they are thus unreliable’ in the sense of being potentially deceptive” (1961, 1 58 f. Author’s emphasis). Neumann/Nјinning subsume under this term “those narrators[,] whose account or interpretation of events gives the reader cause for mistrust” (2008, 98) and outline a number of criteria which hint to the presence of an unreliable narrator libido. 98-99). This type of narration most often occurs with a homogeneity narrator libido. 98), and while the unnamed first narrator is – with respect to Marrows story – directories, Marrow in his status as a homogeneity narrator falls exactly in this category of potentially unreliable narrators.
To which extent he actually fulfils the criteria will be examined in the following section. Hints for narrative unreliability can on the one hand be found in the unnamed narrator’s characterization of Marrow. While in many ways, he does not exactly ‘represent his class” (HAD 5) and is not “typical” (HAD 6) for a seaman, his “propensity to spin yarns” (HAD 6) is nevertheless stressed by the narrator. Further proof for Marrows potentially limited credibility is the way he tells a story with regard to its meaning;
Inhere most of the seaman’s tales are of an “effective simplicity’ (HAD 6), for Marrow ‘the meaning of an episode was not inside like a 7 kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out haze” (HAD 6). This remark characterizes Marrows narrations as highly subjective and interpretative; he does not analyze a story to make sense of it but seems to approach it with a given conviction in order to verify it, which also leads to the perception of his stories as “inconclusive” (HAD 8).
Marrows reliability is moreover compromised by his own description of his somewhat unstable mental constitution. After having spent some time in the Congo, he recognizes the inevitable change of his mental state due to his experiences and It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot. ‘ I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting” (HAD 24). As he recounts his approach to the Inner Station, he moreover remembers “[a] dream-sensation that pervaded all [his] days at that time” (HAD 51) and admits: “Perhaps I had a little fever too.
I had often a ‘little fever’, or a little touch of other things” (HAD 51). Even after is return from Africa, his physical health does not immediately improve, as he says that his “temperature was seldom normal in these days” (HAD 89). The admittance of his psychological state being subject to change due to the experiences in the Congo and also due to the impairment of his physical health raises serious doubts concerning his credibility.
Marrows reliability can be further called into question by the fact that he claims to be always truthful because of his abhorrence for lies – “[y]o know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie” (HAD 32) – yet nevertheless his story, and with it his narrative, end with ii: “The last words he pronounced was – your name” (HAD 96). Neumann/Nјinning include in their list of signals for unreliable narration “discrepancies between the statements and the actions of the narrator” (2008, 99), this contradictory behavior is also characteristic for Marrow.
His credibility is moreover challenged by his own emotional involvement in the story and the fact that his narration contains a huge amount of subjective comments; here he also fulfils the criteria of an unreliable narrator (ibid. 2008, 99). It has been shown that there are some hints for narrative unreliability, yet when insulting Booth’s aforementioned definition, it can be concluded that Marrow is not an unreliable narrator in a strict sense, as his lack of credibility results more from his deep involvement, his subjectivity and his somewhat impaired health and by no means from an intentional deceptiveness.
Due to Marrows monologue constituting almost the entire novella, his narration is inevitably ‘in accordance with the norms of the work, which is why his credibility cannot be Judged in this respect. Nevertheless, as the degree of Marrows credibility remains uncertain, this has also consequences Ninth regard to the story. Concord’s work paints an ambiguous image of imperialism through its main narrator Marrow, as he himself is presented as an ambivalent narrator.
In so far as he is our sole source and provides the only account of imperialist acts in the Congo, the reader is – through his suspicions towards Marrow – also forced to see the narrated imperialist ideologies in a dubious light. It has been demonstrated that the image imperialism has in Heart of Darkness is already somewhat obscure through factors on the level of narrative discourse. The relation between the frame narration and the internal narration as well as the behavior of Marrow as a narrator, which also makes him unreliable to some extent, contribute to the overall ambiguities.
How imagery and symbolism serve to strengthen this implicit criticism is subject to analysis in the following chapter. Ambivalence’s through imagery Symbolism in landscape portrayal As previously demonstrated, the imperialist ideology in Heart of Darkness is painted as highly equivocal through its narrative form. To analyze and highlight this further, the following chapter is now concerned with examining the rhetoric of the novella, particularly what symbols and comparisons are used to describe landscapes and owe ambiguities in these descriptions affect the image imperialism has in Concord’s Nor.
Achebe argues that Concord’s novella is the prime example for the Western desire to ‘set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Rupee’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest” (1988, 262). Indeed the novella does to a certain degree portray the African jungle as potentially dangerous and – through its vivid nature and inherent nativities – “primeval” (HAD 85), a counterpart to Europe which in the imperialist view lustiest its submission.
The symbolic descriptions of the landscape to some extent strengthen Achebe’s thesis: The Congo River is compared to an “immense snake uncoiled” (HAD 9) and later on even more emphatically described as “fascinating – deadly – like a snake” (HAD 11). With the comparison of the river to a snake, danger and ferocity is signaled, especially when compared to the stream” (HAD 4) that IS the Thames, whose serenity is highlighted with adjectives like “unruffled” and ‘tranquil” (HAD 4).
The discrepancy between fascination for and fear of the African continent becomes more obvious with the description of its vegetation: “The moon as spread over everything a thin layer of silver – over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetation standing higher than the wall of a temple” (HAD 31-32). This accurately portrays the immensity of the Jungle, its grandeur through the comparison to a temple, and also its ambiguousness, as Marrow does not know how to estimate it – “as an appeal or as a menace” (HAD 32).
Indeed, the African Jungle seems to ‘swallow up’ and digest the European invaders and their machinery; Marrow describes the trade points he passes as places, where the merry dance of death and read goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere as of an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders (HAD 16). Later on he comes across “decaying machinery’, looking “dead as the carcass of some animal” (HAD 18).
Through this symbolism of death it is clearly shown that the African European foreign substance’, which is incompatible with the African vegetation and therefore rejected. According to Paula “the wilderness took revenge” (2004, 39). This incompatibility becomes even more obvious when looking at the portrayal of Europe, presented by the unnamed city where the Company is located and which is the epitome of death: It is a “whites sepulcher”, “deserted”, “arid as a desert” (HAD 1 1); an altogether hostile, uninhabitable 10 environment, yet at the same time it is the starting point of the European imperialist mission.
Achebe’s claim that Africa renders as a foil for Europe in the novella only to stress the latter’s magnificence is thus negated, as it is the Europeans who bring death and decay to Africa and – consequently – upon themselves. Through the metaphors of death both for the European starting point of colonialists and the African landscapes already affected by it, the image of European imperialism gains further ambivalence, as it is portrayed as highly destructive. Moreover, the location of the narrative itself is symbolic: Marrows story is embedded in “a moment of suspension at a decisive turning point” (Brooks 1984, 256). The flood had made” (HAD 3) when the unnamed narrator starts his account, and by the time he concludes the story, the beginning of the ebb is already past (CB. HAD 96). This tidal turning point’ in the novella can be abstracted to a higher level, namely the embedding of the entire novella in a moment of suspension, possibly on a threshold f times, where imperialism has already lost its glory, as the decaying effects of colonialism are now clearly visible, and where the awareness that it cannot stand the test of time, seems to rise.
Suspension here is created through the discrepancy between this awareness and the uselessness regarding the future, as at the beginning of the 20th century, it is yet uncertain what will follow. Not only does the symbolic portrayal of Africa and Europe serve to highlight the ambiguity of imperialism but also sensory metaphors function as a further stylistic device to convey a dubious image of European imperialism. The contrast between light and darkness, noise and silence is a central motif in the novella and functions as a key to understanding the deeper meaning.
Yet black and white, light and darkness, sound and silence are by no means unilaterally attributed to Europe or to Africa but rather often blur their distinctiveness or are used in contradictory ways, thereby leaving the impression of uncertainty and contributing further to the overall impression of ambivalence. The introductory visual image is that of Africa as a place of “Darkness” (HAD 13), the capitalization here implies that Africa is the impersonation f darkness, to which Marrow is sent 1 1 to as an “emissary of light” (HAD 14).
With this image the notion of the imperialist disable and tempts the reader to draw on the classic interpretation of dark as unknown and threatening, light as illuminating and white as pure and innocent. Yet this ideology is already painted as a doubtful image in the beginning, as the very start of the civilizing mission, the aforementioned unnamed city in supposedly – Belgium, is depicted as a “whites sepulcher” which is permeated by “a dead silence” (HAD 11). These negative aspects of the color white and silence raise Immediate suspicions towards the imperialistic mission.
Color coding in the novella is semantically not definite, as both light and dark, white and black have positive and negative aspects; Pope states in this respect: “Deer dunked Site Kahn demands keen positives POI mere nitrogen suggest warden” (2004, 287) and ‘darkness’ especially remains an ambiguous metaphor (ibid. 279). It is for this lack of semantic definiteness that the imperialist mission gains ambiguous notions, as the European light, that was supposed to enlighten the dark, now also stands for destruction and is often “too dire, too clean and therefore, a lie” (Paula 2004, 28 f. . This ambiguity becomes yet more obvious when Marrow describes Quartz’s oil painting: Rhine I noticed a small sketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. The background was somber – almost black. The movement of the woman was stately, and the effect of the torchlight on the face was Sit-leister (HAD 30). ere torchlight which is supposed to illuminate the black background surprisingly results in the opposite, making the painting even more ‘sinister’.
This interaction teen light and dark in the painting can be interpreted as the effect imperialism had in Africa: While pretending humanist motives like the ‘enlightenment’ of the ‘dark continent’ and its civilization, the effect was sinister and destructive. ere awareness of the disruptive force of imperialism is also repeatedly emphasized Ninth the help of aural images: The Congo is mostly portrayed as a place of silence;4 the connotation here is also multifaceted, as it varies between peace and menace; so does Marrow have a “noisy dream” amidst the strange world of silence.
And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding 4 compare HAD 23, 27, 43, 45, 55 12 over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect (HAD 41). Even though the Jungle here is described in a way to evoke a feeling of uneasiness and possible threat, this does not result from it being menacing per SE but rather in response to the imperialist intruders; emphasized by the words ‘implacable’ and vengeful’. Ivory, the main reason for the European mission in the novella, is connected to both whiteness – in this context also used to describe the pale,