The Facade of Civilization Explored in Heart of Darkness and Heart of the Matter
Heart of Darkness and The Heart of the Matter afford glimpses into the human psyche, explorations deep into human nature. In each, the frailty of the facade we call “civilization” is broken, by external forces portrayed by Conrad and internal ones by Greene. In both stories there is one who falls pray to corruption and one who is witness both submerged in forces that will not be silenced or reasoned with.
'Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork.' He looked out toward the ocean - past the spire of the church thrust into the sky in defiance of the uniform serrated, tin roof-line of the huts clustered around the shore, past the bronze glimmering naked bodies of the inhabitants toiling through the midday heat, toting woven grass baskets and gray baked clay urns upon their heads - to the tranquility that lay just out of grasp, toward the calm that rested just above the water and just below the sky; an ephemeral space one could put his finger upon on land but which always alluded one, slipping just out of grasp when upon the sea. A foreign ship in the bay began taking down the sails to anchor, awaiting another day of futile searches for hidden diamonds. The setting sun draped the tin roofs with a golden gilt which overflowed and dripped to the sand below, creating a landscape worthy of Midas himself, if only for a few seconds.
"Excuse me," a voice said, "aren't you Wilson?"
He looked up at a middle-aged man who stared back from a sunken, yellowed face.
"Yes, that's me"
"May I join you? My name's Marlow."
A cursory glance provides a couple superficial comparisons between the works. The point of view from which the stories are related is different; in Heart of Darkness, an anonymous first person transcribes Marlow's relating of a tale whereas in Heart of the Matter there is a third person narrator which concentrates on a few main characters. Also the setting, though somewhat similar, is still quite distinguishable, allowing for the development of different themes; Conrad's is set in a wild outpost deep in the center of Africa and Greene's occurs in a well-colonized port somewhere in West Africa. The natural forces of depravity are rampant, in fact infective, in the steamy, dense jungles in which Kurtz dwells. Scobie, on the other hand, is allowed a more physically peaceful existence, struggling not with the physical but with an inner turmoil.
"You're the new captain?"
"Have a drink."
Wilson took three ice cubes from a small bucket that was now filled with more water than ice, dropped them into a glass identical to the one in his hand and filled it to the brim with pink gin. He handed it to Marlow and refilled his own half-empty glass, almost instinctually. Both sat in silence staring toward the sea, pierced only by...