Five men--Marlow, the Director of Companies, the Lawyer, and the Accountant, and the narrator--are at rest in the midst of sailing down the Thames River on the Nellie, their small boat. The men are waiting for the turn of tide that will take them downriver. They sit idly and consider playing dominoes but never get started, as the sun sets.
Topic Tracking: Darkness Imagery 1
The narrator thinks about the long history of British exploration and conquest with fondness as he looks over the river: "The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth...Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth!...The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealth, the germs of empires." Part 1, pg. 2 Topic Tracking: Imperialism/Commerce 1
After a long silence lit only by the nearby lighthouses, Marlow speaks: "'And this also,' said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places of the earth.'" Part 1, pg. 3 The others on the boat listen, because Marlow is about to tell a story. Marlow is a little different from other seamen in his tendency to tell stories not with simple meanings but rather with wise, universalmeanings. Marlow explains that he is thinking of the Roman times, when the "civilized world" was discovering the mysterious and unsettled British Isles, similar to how the British are now discovering and settling the unexplored areas of the world. Thinking from the point of view of a Roman commander, Marlow explains the feelings of trying to conquer a foreign wilderness: "...In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate." Part 1, pg. 4 Topic Tracking: Wilderness Imagery 1
Topic Tracking: Isolation 1
Marlow contrasts the brute force used by the Romans with the efficiency of the British colonizers, but seems to say they are not that different: "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much." Part 1, pg. 4 Marlow goes on to tell his shipmates about his experience as a freshwater sailor. He admits that his story is unclear, but says that what actually happened is less important than the effect it had upon him. He starts by saying that during a period of idleness, he began looking for a ship to crew. None were forthcoming, so he decided to offer himself to the Company, a continental trading concern, as a riverboat captain in the still largely mysterious continent of Africa, since, as a child, he was fascinated with the unexplored spots on maps. He contacted his aunt, who offered her assistance in getting him a spot on a riverboat. He got such a spot quickly, because his predecessor Fresleven had been killed by natives after he unexpectedly attacked a village chief. Marlow traveled to the Company's offices on the continent, in an unspecified white city which is most likely Brussels, Belgium. The Secretary of the Company had Marlow sign papers agreeing never to reveal trade secrets. Topic Tracking: Imperialism/Commerce 2
Marlow sat in the waiting room of the Company, looking at the maps there....
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