Marlow states that “Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world”. He is trying to simultaneously depict his journey up the river as a representation of his discovery of the innate wickedness present in all mankind, and how that knowledge progressed, as well as how concealed it was. The native Africans, who were cannibals, that accompanied Marlow care about the feeling of the White people.
When Marlow says that “going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world”, he is trying to metaphorically describe his experience of how he found out about the ‘heart of darkness’. Even at the very start of the passage, Conrad already paints images of the darkness, emptiness, confusion and the unknown. “An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest” surrounds the steamer as they arrive. Even at this point in time, when they have arrived into a new land, “there was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine” and all one can see is “the gloom of overshadowed distances.” Conrad suggests to the readers that the empty stream is the start of Marlow’s journey. Nobody has been here, and even if they did, they would have not lingered for long, as the place wasn’t an attraction of any sort, and that the entire place had a dark and brooding feeling over it. As Marlow continues his journey, he describes it as “[penetrating] deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.” Even when Marlow arrives, the darkness inside him is already forming; “faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you— so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend.” He begins to understand the darkness because he is more intimate and closer with it, now that it is manifesting