The Road to Self Discovery
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, is a short novel about Marlow, a pensive sailor, and his journey up the Congo River to meet an idealist named Kurtz. Marlow works as a riverboat captain with a Belgian company organized to trade in the Congo. Throughout his journey, Marlow encounters extensive forms of brutality, thus taking him on another journey: one of self discovery and a newfound attitude towards life through encountering “the heart of darkness”.
The notion of a change in character was first introduced at the start of the novel when Marlow visits a doctor to receive a physical examination before his journey. The doctor alludes to an internal transformation among those who take the same expedition that Marlow is about to embark upon. As Marlow recounts:
“The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinking of something else the while. ‘Good, good for there,’ he mumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked me whether I would let him measure my head. Rather surprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing like callipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way, taking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man in a threadbare coat like a gabardine, with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmless fool. ‘I always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measure the crania of those going out there,’ he said. ‘And when they come back too?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I never see them,’ he remarked; ‘and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know” (Conrad 130).
The doctor’s comments foreshadow two inevitable situations within the novel: the brutal path Marlow was about to continue down, and the change he would eventually experience from within.
It can also be argued that the doctor’s allusion was not of a change of heart, but of a change in mental stability. Marlow endured many brutalities throughout the course of his journey up the Congo River; therefore, having tremendous effects on his...
Bibliography: Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1902. Rpt. in The Norton Introduction to the Short
Novel. By Jerome Beaty. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999.
“Study: Mental Health Issues After War.” NPR.org. 14 Nov. 2007. National Public
Radio. 20 Oct. 2008
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