Marlow Character: Discuss the character of Marlow
The character of Marlow has a deep significance in the novel, "Heart of Darkness" because it is him that brings out the truth of European civilizations in Africa and the harsh facts of imperialistic forces are revealed to the audience. This character, though a persona to the novelist, does have certain characteristics which deserve appreciation though he does not claim his nobility at any stage of the novel. He seems to have been an honest narrator of a tale of horror, pain and agony of human existence. He unveils the dark practices carried out in the name of trade and welfare: "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much".
Marlow, a partaker in the universal imperialism: Marlow, a seaman, was out of job for a certain period. He needed a ship but got none. A childhood desire to visit the African river which resembled "an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea" invited his thirst of wandering and he approached establishment for his appointment out there. He got appointed quite smoothly owing to two things: his aunt's relations in the higher administration and the murder of one of the ship captains of the company in Congo. So, they hired Marlow. However, he relates that while his stay in the company office in England, he found "something ominous in the atmosphere" and "something not quite right". The most noticeable thing was two women knitting wool that he remembers as: "Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall".
His reporting of the wilderness of Africa: Marlow reports that the landscape "seemed to beckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart". Marlow calls the land of Congo "prehistoric" and he considered himself among "the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil". Soon they reached land. He observed some natives with gestures: "The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us-who could tell"? Marlow refers to the practices of dark ages with the deeds of Europeans in Congo: "we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign-and no memories".
Marlow exposes the bitterness of African life: We are made aware of the two way misery of African natives: they were being eaten up by their poverty and hunger as well as by the unstirred anger of the white men that killed them without any resort. The blacks were escaping the invading whites and in doing so, they were being slaughtered either by hunger or they were being caught by the "civilized" white man that yoked them for drudgery. The natives are also enemies of each other. There is tribal system and utterly divided Africa which lured was engulfed in darkness and invited a rather graver darkness of greed and lust from outside its heart. The Europeans did come to rescue "ivory" in the name of humanity which never existed in their hearts.
A horrible picture of white men in the heart of Congo: On his way to Africa, jointly conquered by the British and the French, Marlow observed a new world. This world was full of agonies and pangs of mankind yet unheard in the rather straightforward civilized world from where he had hailed. He observed a French warship firing in the woods while "nothing could happen" there but they still believed that "there was a camp of natives...enemies". Marlow feels that "there was a touch of insanity in the proceeding". On reaching the Company office in the country, Marlow observes the misery of the natives that were set to work by the company: "I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking." By seeing these black men, he understands that "these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies."
The horrors of the Europeans in the Congo: People were dying of fever amid the dancing season of death and gloom. Still they continued the dark trade in the heart of Africa, Congo. Marlow declares Africa "prehistoric" because he finds no development or progress except natural wilderness engulfing man. There were either thick forests or rivers. Life seemed to have been in the very beginnings there. The rotten and damned place was by no means worth living but white men were "being held there captive by a spell...of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong-too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness". Marlow tells during all the voyages there was silence and wilderness and the "word ivory would ring in the air for a while-and on we went again into the silence". The white men were dying but they were not willing to leave the spot either owing to their greed or the spell of the dark place of Africa.