Q.4. Discuss the art of narration/narrative technique in
Heart of Darkness.
Comment on Conrad’s narrative technique in Heart of
Discuss the role of Marlow as a narrator.
Ans. There are two narrators in the novel. The first narrator, who remains unnamed, merely serves to introduce Marlow to us and to acquaint us with some of the essentials of Marlow’s character and personality. Marlow is described in the beginning by the first narrator as a man having sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, and an ascetic aspect. He describes Marlow as sitting cross-legged in the posturbuddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus flower. Conrad’s indirect or oblique method of narration is a difficult one that puts a great strain upon the memory of the reader. This difficulty is further increased by his use of Marlow, a sea captain, as a narrator who comes between the novelist and the reader, and serves as a guide and helper, commenting, explaining, and illuminating. In fact, it is Marlow who enables the novelist to achieve complete objectivity.
He helps him dramatize the action and compels us to see it through his eyes. Through him, the novelist could make a number of comments, and speak in various moods which he could not have done otherwise. Conrad like James is the historian of fine conscience, and Marlow is the evaluator as well as the recorder. Marlow is a talkative person and through his numerous digressions, he brings in a number of characters and incidents which help us measure up characters likeKurtz. It is through him that multiple points of view are brought to bear upon the psychology of Kurtz, and thus we can have a thorough idea of Kurtz’s character. Conrad’s sense of impression and suspense enables him to render life-like story. His stories always have dramatic openings.
They open at a dramatic moment in the life of the central personage, and what has led to the event is unfolded only gradually as the story proceeds. Suspense is aroused by focussing attention on some peculiar gesture, look, or mannerism of the personage concerned, and it was his habit, to begin with, a long conversation about his men and women before they actually appear on the stage. Kurtz in Heart of Darkness is perfectly visualized from what is told by him. We never see him in action; we see him only dying, and yet we know him very well. The story of the novel exercises a magic spell upon us. It engages our mind with intensely dramatic situations and with its exciting events. What actually upsets the reader is the mode of narration. Marlow alone would have been sufficient to distance the reader from Conrad. The introduction of another narrator, besides Marlow, is a clumsy device for the reader to find the proper meaning of the
the portrayal of characters in the novel.
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