Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does the death of the helmsman help to illuminate a theme of Heart of Darkness?

Expert Answers info

Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

calendarEducator since 2016

write1,061 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The attack on the boat that causes the helmsman's death highlights the idea of the jungle as a hostile and inscrutable place full of unknowable dangers. First, the attack comes suddenly, and it takes a while for Marlowe to notice it: the "little sticks" that fill the air are hardly recognizable as arrows and seem as if "they wouldn't kill a cat." It is as if the jungle itself is attacking them. Even though Marlowe is slow to apprehend danger, the Helmsman has an intense reaction, raising his feet up and down and frothing at the mouth. Marlowe orders him to be still, but his comment, "I might just as well have ordered a tree not to sway in the wind," suggests that the Helmsman's fear has more to do with nature than any adversary. In fact, the people on shore doing the shooting are not individuals but a collection of "naked breasts, arms, legs, [and] glaring eyes" that seem like...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 499 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

belarafon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write2,867 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Science, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial