Give a quote or two that includes imagery from the first eleven pages of Heart of Darkness. Describe the images and how they make you feel about life on the Congo River.
“Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like” (11). Marlow, the storyteller, talks about great seamen who were forced to take sail upon the sea centuries ago. He compares the sea to the color of lead illustrating the idea that the sea is similar to a dark abyss. The color of lead is very harsh and rigid. For this reason, it is described as a deep place full of mystery and secrecy. He then compares the sky to the color of smoke; this clearly shows that the sky is gloomy and full of pollution and fog. This also creates a mysterious and fearful atmosphere. Marlow describes the ship that the men used as sturdy as a heavyset piano on scrawny legs. These comparisons make it evident that the sea is a scary and mystifying place. The images that Marlow describes give readers a sense of terror and dread. His comparisons convince readers (including me) that life on the Congo River would definitely be an intense adventure full of unexplained things, especially when he describes it as “the very end of the world.” This phrase shows that the sea is a place where there are no inhabitants and people sailing upon the sea would generally be alone. This also creates a scary atmosphere because people do not want to be alone in such a deserted place.
Throughout the first few pages, Joseph Conrad has painted a picture and told many stories through the descriptive language he has used. One quote with a lot of imagery states, "The water shone pacifically: the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises island, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds" (10). Charlie Marlow describes the atmosphere and environment around him. From this quote, the reader can understand the serenity and tranquility he feels while at sea. It is during times like this when Marlow and his fellow sailors grew closer together. Since the seamen were alone, settings like the one described, allowed them to feel comfortable enough to spend their free time telling their stories. Although the Congo is a mysterious place to be, the imagery used in this quote makes me feel that at certain points during their trip, the seamen came across beautiful expanses and scenes. It is the darkness of night that brings restlessness and anxiety to the seamen because that is the time when they truly lay on the boat in mystery not knowing what will happen next.
“I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking” (19). After reading this sentence the first word that comes to mind is slavery. Marlow is describing the African Americans that were slaves for the white people. He is first emphasizing how skinny and starved they look. This shows how merciless and torturous the white people are towards the African Americans and that they only use them for hard labor. Then, Marlow describes how the African Americans are chained together, symbolizing how they are all the same and work as one. To the Company’s eyes they are not individual humans and do not deserve to be treated the same as white people. This description portrays the unfair and difficult life on the Congo River for the African Americans. Also, it is difficult for the many workers who are not expecting to see this kind of behavior and rethink their choice to come here.
"The edge of the colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter and drip with steam. Here and there greyish-whitish specks showed up, clustered inside the white surf, with a flag flying above them perhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still no bigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse of their background." (17) This quote explains many things about the Congo; it describes it's incredible age and how it's inhabitants have still preserved it, it describes the enigma of the Congo River waiting, begging, to be discovered. There is also something else that peaks Marlow's taste for adventure; "But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with it's head in the sea, the body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and it's tail lost in the depths of the land." (13) Not only does this describe it's interesting landscape, but the snake like river represents something else: danger. The Congo is a snake ready to strike when Marlow least expects it, take for example the cruel fate of Captain Fresleven, who previously commandeered the ship that Marlow is using to travel down the same path as he once did. These two quotes reveal the aesthetic yet ominous aura that the Congo releases.
As soon as we begin to read the first few pages, Joseph Conrad's use of imagery in his sentences allows us to picture what the Congo River is like. "Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay-cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death,- death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush" (11). It is clear that the Congo River is not a enjoyable place to be. It is a place where people might not come out alive. The speaker, Marlow, uses the words such as "tempests" or "disease" to explain to us the environment of this wondrous place. "Death skulking in the air" is one phrase that gives a reader goosebumps. It shows that everywhere you look, you will see something that resembles death. The images that Marlow describe are those that will not appeal to the reader. It is full of terror and danger. By reading these words, I myself, become traumatized and hesitant to ever visit a place like this.
"…the very end of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina…" (p. 11)
"The edge of the colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black fringed with white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitter and drip with steam." (p. 17)
Both of these quotes remind me of the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" exactly because of the title… At worlds end. These quotes automatically put a dark, erie, gruesome, image in the readers' minds. If somebody reads something about dark, smoky skies, or huge, dark jungles and the dark, blue sea, of course it sounds like somewhere very dangerous, unsafe, and definitely not somewhere one would want to be alone, especially while at night in the dark. It sounds like a place of death, horror, and terrible fate. The reader will be traumatized and of course will wish that they will never be placed in a situation where they will feel or actually be in a place as though they are at the world's end.
"A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth." (Sparknotes..i didnt have the book!)This quote in particular, is a perfect example of imagery Conrad has used in the beginning of the book. He is describing his surroundings and observations of which seems to be out at sea or near a dock, approaching "the greatest town on earth" which is London. He creates an overall dark and desolate mood, by describing what he sees, which makes the reader think of London as a place with no hope or happiness. There was a lot he did not know about this area because there is no clear light that can tell him how he may deal with such a situation, but he feels as if he should stay away from such an area, as tempting as it may be.
"All their meager breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily up-hill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages" (19,20). This quote gives me a detailed image of the situation and lifestyle of an African native enslaved near the Congo River. The widened nostrils and the gloomy, depressed eyes of the enslaved natives tell the entire story. The white men treated and often referred to these natives as "savages." The Africans were treated horribly. It is evident that corruption was present near the Congo River. Slavery existed in this area. The natives were treated inhumanely to a point where they felt indifferent towards everything in life and became unhappy, depressed individuals. The "slave-life" often made them forget their identities and lose their personalities. This quote creates a dangerous, fearful atmosphere for the life on the Congo River. It is not a place a sane person would wish to visit. The Congo River has a mysterious aspect to it and seems to be holding a deep secret one can only find out through exploration.