Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Part I, Section 3 Analysis (pages 75-91)

Marlow's suggestion that the jungle drums are as possibly profound as Christian bells further strengthens the idea that the jungle is a sacred place, perhaps where some kind of divinity exists. It also suggests that the people of the jungle are not savage—just different from the Europeans. In addition, Marlow repeatedly refers to the agents of the company as pilgrims—they even carry staves like some kind of mystics—again reinforcing this idea that there is something supernatural or beyond logic taking place during the company's endeavors.

The word "horrors" (76) appears for the first time; this is noteworthy because of Kurtz's final words.

During the trek, three white men are described, one of which is Kurtz. One white man kills a native on the path, and the other demands that Marlow kill black members of his caravan for dropping him. Throughout the novel, Conrad shows the viciousness of the supposedly "civilized" European company men. Their acts are consistently savage. The brutality and hypocrisy of Imperialism is a clear and oft-discussed theme of this work.

When Marlow relates his first encounter with the manager, he describes a smile that acts " 'like a seal applied on the words' " (78). Conrad uses the word "seal" twice and "sealed" once to depict the way the manager speaks. The manager even plays with " 'a stick of sealing-wax' " while he talks to Marlow. It is interesting then when the manager divulges the information that Kurtz is ill that he exclaims, "Ah, Mr. Kurtz!" and breaks the stick of wax. Conrad's word choice in this instance could be interpreted many ways, but it definitely highlights Kurtz's importance and suggests he possesses some important knowledge (which supports the theme previously discussed).

A major symbol to consider in this page range is Kurtz's painting of the woman. Paintings are intrinsically symbolic, so careful attention should be paid to them when they appear in literature. The painting, a women " 'draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch' " against a " 'sombre' " background achieves a lighting effect that is " 'sinister' " (83). Like all good symbols, this one has many possible layers of meaning. The blindfold, torch, and darkness all refer back to topics already discussed—that is bringing the light of civilization to the dark corners of the world, but why a women? Earlier Marlow suggested women could not handle the truth of the world. Perhaps this painting shows that Kurtz understands that his "Intended", the women he intended to marry when he returned from the jungle, can never know his true nature.