Heart of Darkness

Analyze the language of Conrad's purpose

explain the purpose of the passage, analyzing how the language helps readers understand Conrad's purpose.

Sometimes we came across stations huddled against the bank. The white men we saw there were overjoyed to see us, but they seemed strange. They looked like prisoners held captive by a spell. They would talk to us about ivory for a while, then we would sail on. There were millions of trees lining the river like a wall. They were massive and made our boat feel like a little bug. It made you feel very small and very lost, but it wasn’t depressing exactly. After all, we had to keep crawling along. I don’t know where the agents thought they would crawl to in the end. I was crawling towards Kurtz. The steam pipes started leaking, so we crawled very slowly. The river seemed to shrink behind us and get larger in front, like we were being closed in. We sailed deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet. Sometimes we would hear drums in the distance all night and into the morning. We couldn’t tell what they meant. In the morning it was chilly and perfectly quiet. A twig snapping would make you jump. We were wandering around an unknown and prehistoric planet. We were like the first men on earth, but all the land was cursed. But then we’d come around a bend and see a village. People would yell and clap and sway around. It was like prehistoric men cursing us or praying to us or welcoming us. We couldn’t tell. We couldn’t understand our surroundings. We sailed past like ghosts, curious but horrified, as sane men would be watching a riot in an asylum. We couldn’t understand because we’d gone too far. We were traveling in the first night on Earth. There were no memories.

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This is a different world for Marlow. It is a surreal darkness that he has not been invited to and does not belong in. Conrad uses language that evokes a sense of doom or even judgment for white men who think they can exploit what they do not understand. The Europeans are sailing into the underworld that will envelop them and make them pay for their hubris and greed.

...like we were being closed in. We sailed deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.