In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, how does Marlow feel when he hears the tribesmen howl and watches them dance?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part II of Heart of Darkness, Marlow is moving closer to Kurtz's station when he hears a "tumultuous and mournful uproar." The shrieking of the tribesmen provokes the other Europeans to grab their guns, but Marlow thinks the tribesmen will not attack his boat. He believes they would get lost in the fog, and he does not see any canoes for them to travel in.

What really makes Marlow feel unafraid is the tone of their cries. He says, "They had not the fierce character boding of immediate hostile intention...they had given me an irresistible impression of sorrow." In other words, Marlow senses grief in the tribesmen's cries. He thinks their grief might cause them to strike out, but their grief will more likely, as he says, lead to "the form of apathy." The tribesmen are so grief-stricken that they are unlikely to attack the Europeans and their allied native people on the boat. 

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Section Two, when Marlow hears the "native howl and leap", the believes they are not all that different from himself. They seem to share some sort of "remote kinship". Then he says that if one is willing to admit that kinship, it is "ugly". Marlow then continues with the idea that man's mind must contain elements of both the past and the present. As he is thinking, he again says white men must face the truth about their past, and not try to eliminate it with "brute force" as the white colonialists are trying to do. One must accept the truth of the white man's connection to the natives and have the strength to face that truth

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Heart of Darkness

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