At the start of the novel, Marlow, along with the four other men, watch the Director of Companies. Marlow makes this note about him while the Director is looking seaward: “It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom” (1). One would think that the Director’s work would be in the future, out before him and waiting to be taken care of. However, Marlow’s remark that the Director’s work is actually behind him is quite the contrary. The work cut out for the Director deals with history, and the struggle to understand and learn from the past.
Marlow makes a revelation to the crew: “I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work, the chance to find yourself” (25). Marlow believes that by doing work, one can discover oneself and his own perceptibility for himself in such a way which “no other man can ever know”.
After the cannibals help Marlow with his steamboat, Marlow recruits some of them for his crew. He notes that they are “fine fellows—cannibals… They were men one could work with, and [he is] grateful to them” (31). The cannibals are more productive and useful than the people in the original crew. Marlow deeply respects and admires their self-restraint from eating human flesh in front of Marlow.
Work and keeping busy are a means of looking inward, of truly understanding the surrounding world as well as truly understanding ourselves.
One instance of futility that Marlow stumbled upon was when his crew “came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn’t even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush” (11). Though someone on board assured Marlow that there were natives, “enemies”, there, Marlow highly doubts the reasoning behind the decision to “[shell] the bush”.
“I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass…an undersized railway truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air. One was off…I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a...
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