Discuss the narrator of Heart of Darkness. How does Marlow’s story affect him?

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Conrad's story is told in a layered, story-within-a-story manner. Marlow , to be clear, is not the narrator; Marlow is one of a number of company officers aboard the Director's yacht (the Nellie). The men are gathered on deck at the end of day while their ship is anchored in...

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Conrad's story is told in a layered, story-within-a-story manner. Marlow, to be clear, is not the narrator; Marlow is one of a number of company officers aboard the Director's yacht (the Nellie). The men are gathered on deck at the end of day while their ship is anchored in the Thames. Marlow's story is reported to us by an unnamed narrator, which wraps the text in an extra layer of ambiguity—we are not getting Marlow's words exactly, but what the narrator remembers Marlow saying.

The narrator is responsible for the opening description of the evening on the river, and he is who reflects on the "service" the Thames has provided the English people and the historic sailors and ships it has borne. This would seem to place Marlow's story in that sort of context—another example of "hunters of gold" going forth bearing the "spark from the sacred fire" of civilization. For the narrator, the river is a pathway to the "mystery of an unknown earth."

Marlow's story of course undermines this conception. The Company does not bring European civilization to the bush; on the contrary, the bush brings out the savagery lurking in the Europeans. In the figure of Kurtz specifically, we have someone who was transformed by the bush and who finally recognized "the horror" of the wild.

Conrad spends but a paragraph at the end of his text to return the reader to the deck of the Nellie. The narrator makes no comment on the story, but his description of the river seems to indicate a changed perspective—he sees now that the river leads "into the heart of an immense darkness," suggesting that the narrator has recognized latent savagery present even here.

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