Write on the character and role of Marlow in Heart of
Ans. Heart of darkness is largely a record of Conrad’s own visit to
the Congo and his experiences there. In this novel, Conrad speaks to us
through Marlow. But we should not identify Marlow with Conrad,
because there are certain vital differences between the two. Marlowe is
not wholly Conrad but broadly, he is the mouthpiece of the author.
Conrad uses here an oblique or indirect method, the impressionistic
technique to bring out the complexities of the human psyche.
There are two narrators in Heart of Darkness.
The first narrator who remains unnamed merely serves to introduce Marlow to the
reader and to acquaint him 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 posture of “a Buddha preaching
in European clothes and without a lotus flower.”
Marlow is a superb judge of human character. He can probe
deeper into the secret motives of people he comes across. He is also
able to explore the subconscious level of his own mind and express it
effectively. He can portray exactly and precisely the Manager of the
Central Station as “nothing within this man.” He addresses the
Brickmaker as “papier-mache Mephistopheles”. Regarding Mr. Kurtz,
he remarks that he is “hollow at the core”.
Marlow gets a lot of information about Mr. Kurtz from the
Accountant, Manager of the Central Station, Brickmaker, and mainly
from the Russian. On the basis of all this information, he forms a
correct estimate about Mr. Kurtz that he is a man of diabolical nature
and has taken “a high seat amongst the devils of the land”.
He appreciates Mr. Kurtz for his eloquence and leadership; he serves him a
lot during his illness. At the time of death, he hears Mr. Kurtz exclaiming
in terror, “The horror! ‘The horror!”. He interprets this as a confirmation
of Kurtz’s moral victory over the evil forces. He feels himself so akin to
Mr. Kurtz that after his death when he meets Mr. Kurtz’s fiancée, he tells
her a lie on asking for Kurtz’s last words; he says it was her name. He
tells this lie just with the purpose of not making her disillusioned, more •
sad, and moreover, due to his loyalty to Mr. Kurtz even after his death.
To sum up, Marlow plays a great role in the novel as a narrator,
interpreter, observer, philosopher, and psychologist, and in fact, in all
these faculties he projects the novelist Joseph Conrad himself.
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