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Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad

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How does Marlow's introduction illuminate his Congo voyage?

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Marlow's introduction sheds light on his voyage in the Congo by presenting him as a calm, meditative soul given to introspection. Marlow has only developed these characteristics as a reaction to his horrific first-hand experiences of life in the Congo, which taught him about the heart of darkness that lurks in each and every one of us.

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When we're first introduced to Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, he's meditating like a Buddhist monk on the deck of the Nellie, a British boat anchored on the River Thames.

Marlow's posture is so strange, especially for a sailor at that time and that place, that we...

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immediately start to ask ourselves why he's sitting like this. It is rare indeed to see someone aboard a boat sitting perfectly calm and still in a pose of philosophic meditation. But then, as we will soon discover, Marlow is not your average sailor.

To a considerable extent, all sailors are forged by the many experiences they've encountered on their journeys, and Marlow is no different in this regard. What's different is the effect that his experiences have had on him. Unusually for a sailor, he has become philosophical and reflective after his first-hand experience of the horrors of life in the Congo.

His way of dealing with what he witnessed there is to develop a sense of detachment from the world, to become less worldly and more introspective. As a consequence of this remarkable change in his soul and in his personality, he has become the vision of peace and calm that we see when we are first introduced to him.

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