The Character of Marlow in Heart of Darkness
Sifting through the detailed descriptions of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness provides tremendous insight into the character of Marlow. Conrad’s words paint Marlow’s personality as selfish and steady.
Marlow can be an amazingly selfish character. You have to wonder if that was his conscious attempt to stay sane or if it was truly how he interacted. While in the outer station Marlow observed a group of Africans chained together, he had no compassion for these men he simply watched them. After they passed, Marlow, thinking nothing of it, crept into the shade and was met by a group of starving Africans dying in the darkness of the trees. At this particular moment the reader is given a glimpse in to Marlow's compassionate side. One can tell that Marlow is disturbed or distracted by the scene. He even tries to help one of the Africans by giving them a portion of bread. As soon as Marlow stepped out of the shade the image was lost. He thought no more about it and simply continued up the hill. A reader would hope that a companionate character would stop and contemplate what could be done for these people, or at least what kind of society would allow this kind of treatment. Marlow doesn't think about the starving, or suffering people, which is his way of keeping his mind steady. By not thinking of these people Marlow doesn't have to question what he is doing in Africa or what he "should" do according to the popular standard. Marlow doest care about what he "should" do Marlow just wants to discover the empty places on the map on his own personal journey.
Marlow uses natural distractions in order to keep from slipping away. He doesn't seem to be too interested in the human aspects of his surroundings but the natural or physical aspects of his life in the Congo are what he seems to enjoy. Fixing his boat is the first distraction he uses to forget the fact that he is in a strange place with less then humane practices. It is obvious that Marlow is, to say the least, frustrated that he has traveled such a great distance and is met with a sunken boat. Instead of getting angry and discouraged he merely starts to fix his problem. Marlow's way of dealing with his surroundings is by focusing on the tasks before him. He thinks, not just of himself but what he is responsible for. The boat is the main thing that he needs to take care of. He repairs it and watches out for it down the river. If Marlow didn't keep himself occupied with the boat his mind would have been forced to wander. Marlow says, while watching the river, "When you have to attend to things of...