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Biplob Prodhan
  • 4 weeks ago
  • 30
Write on the character and role of Marlow in Heart of Darkness. [D.U. 1993, 1999, 2003, NU. 2007, 2009]

What estimate of the character of Marlow have formed from your reading of Heart of Darkness?

Ans. Heart of Darkness is largely a record of Conrad’s own visit to the Congo and his experiences there. In this novel Conrad speaks to us through Marlow. But we should not identify Marlow with Conrad, because there are certain vital differences between the two. Marlowe is not wholly Conrad but broadly, he is the mouth-piece of the author Conrad uses here an oblique or indirect method, the impressionistic technique to bring out the complexities of human psyche.

There are two narrators in Heart of Darkness. The first narrator who remains unnamed merely serves to introduce Marlow to the reader and to acquaint him with some of the essentials of Marlow’s character and personality. Marlow is described in the beginning by the first narrator as a man having sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, and an ascetic aspect. He describes Marlow as sitting cross-legged in the posture of “a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus flower.”

Marlow is a superb judge of human character. He can probe deeper into the secret motives of people he comes across. He is also able to explore the sub-conscious level of his own mind and express it effectively. He can portray exactly and precisely the Manager of the Central Station as “nothing within this man.” He addresses the Brickmaker as “papier-mache Mephistopheles”. Regarding Mr. Kurtz he remarks that he is “hollow at the core”.

Marlow gets a lot of information about Mr. Kurtz from the Accountant, Manager of the Central Station, Brickmaker, and mainly from the Russian. On the basis of all these information he forms a correct estimate about Mr. Kurtz that he is a man of diabolical nature and has taken “a high seat amongst the devils of the land”. He appreciates Mr. Kurtz for his eloquence and leadership; he serves him a lot during his illness. At the time of death he hears Mr. Kurtz exclaiming in terror, “The horror! The horror!”. He interprets this as a confirmation of Kurtz’s moral victory over the evil forces. He feels himself so akin to Mr. Kurtz that after his death when he meets Mr. Kurtz’s fiancée, he tells her a lie on asking for Kurtz’s last words; he says it was her name. He tells this lie just with the purpose of not making her disillusioned, more sad, and moreover, due to his loyalty to Mr. Kurtz even after his death.

To sum up Marlow plays a great role in the novel as a narrator, interpreter, observer, philosopher and psychologist and in fact, in all these faculties he projects the novelist Joseph Conrad himself.

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Biplob Prodhan
Biplob Prodhan Founder & Director EDNOUB Foundation Ednoub Private Program

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