Heart of Darkness

The Narrative Voice in Heart of Darkness College

Blanchot’s view of the status of the narrative voice is very pertinent to any discussion of Heart of Darkness. ‘Something indeterminate’ and ‘spectral’ implies a lack of stability and centrality which is rendered strongly in the novel by the use of multiple narrators within a frame narrative structure. This essay will explore each narrative layer in turn and show how each one adds a layer of uncertainty and doubt to the narrative being told. It removes any sense of a fixed centre to the work which belies any attempt to accurately question and interrogate the voice speaking.

The actual ‘I’ in the text is the man sitting on the Nellie listening to Marlow’s voice. However, this ‘I’ is an unknown quantity. Barthes defines character creation as 'when identical semes traverse the same proper name several times and appear to settle upon it’[1]. However, here no such form is given. It is only the occasional use of ‘I’ that allows us to easily distinguish this first-person narrator from a third person narration. It takes until the fourth paragraph to even establish this ‘I’[2] figure, prior to this the more inclusive and therefore fragmented pronouns ‘us’ and ‘our’ are used. The haziness of this voice has led many to identify this...

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