The Chief Accountant in Heart of Darkness

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Joseph Conrad features many profound characters in his novella Heart of Darkness. These characters, such as the Chief Accountant, are used to expose the truth about humanity. The Chief Accountants appearance is particularly interesting – a “high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clear necktie, and varnished boots” (p. 19) – a strange attire for someone working in the heat and filth of the Congo. The Accountants wardrobe represents his feeling of superiority over the people of the Congo, and how he wishes to be perceived by others. In his mind he is an intellectual, the man who will bring civilization to the Congo, by bringing Europe to the Congo. He seems unaffected by his surroundings, when Marlow meets him; he is out for a “breath of fresh air.” (p. 19) It is as if he is still at his office in Europe and not on an undeveloped continent. He is even teaching a native lady how to clean and starch his shirts. His attire represents what the Company – and to a greater extent society – wants to be, clean, dignified, and respected. Even Marlow says that he “respected the fellow,” (p. 19) his appearance rather than his person though. The Accountant goes to great lengths to groom himself. He must keep the veneer of civilization securely in place. Image is priority for the Company that employs the Chief Accountant as well as Marlow; the veneer covers up the greater darkness they do not want to be seen. The Chief Accountant represents the darkness; his appearance is what covers this up. How long does one have to be isolated in the jungle before they start to feel the lack of ‘European’ civilization? Conrad believes that man is ultimately amoral, and when faced with darkness will always default to his basic animalistic ways. The darkness.

The books are the Chief Accountants life. It is unknown whether his meticulous scrutinizing of them is a factor of his personality, or a result of the horrors of the Congo. It is safe to assume...
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