Uncertainty In Heart Of Darkness And The Stranger

1021 words - 4 pages

In The Stranger, Albert Camus establishes uncertainty to diffuse the tension surrounding Meursault while in Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad creates uncertainty to intensify the tension around Marlow. Both authors use a first person narrator, which limits the information the reader receives. Also both lead characters miss information though Meursault does so intentionally while Marlow does so unintentionally. Camus enforces the correlation of uncertainty and tension in The Stranger when Meursault gains certainty and the tension that then flows from the book. While the correlation in show in Heart of Darkness when Marlow is uncertain and the tension around him heightens.
In both The Stranger and Heart of Darkness, the authors choose a first person limited narrator to obscure the facts, but for different purposes. In The Stranger, Meursault makes assumptions to carry the plot but leaves the reader uncertain of the truth. At one point he assumes, “They must have seen us get on the bus with a beach bag” (Camus 53). This statement quells any fears that might arise in how the Arabs knew where Meursault and his comrades went but still leaves questions to the critical reader. When Camus needs tension to be relived around a terribly tense time, Meursault’s memories become foggy. During the trial while observing the jury Meursault recollects, “I can’t say what distinguished one from another” (Camus 82). This recollection is just one of the many occasions that this technique occurs to keep the story benign. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow makes no assumptions leaving the assuming to the reader.. When the crew is surprised by a sudden scream Marlow mentions he does not, “ Know how it struck the others” (Conrad 103). This observation only creates more tension and leaves more questions. Marlow is completely unbiased in a world full of questions, racism and stigmas.
In The Stranger, Meursault voluntarily misses information to alleviate tension while in Heart of Darkness, Marlow misses information unintentionally, which only heightens the tension of his surroundings. These uses of ambiguity lead the readers’ emotions to the desired feeling. When Meursault becomes bored with a conversation he loses focus and the reader loses information. In one conversation with the director, Meursault note, “The director spoke to me again. But I wasn’t really listening anymore”(Camus 5). Because of Meursault’s lack of focus much information is lost, but with which tension is relieved because, if Meursault does not care the reader also does not. This absence occurs again during the trial’s closing arguments when Meursault sates, “I stopped listening to the prosecutor” (Camus 100). The closing arguments can be some of the tensest times of a trial but Meursault just dismisses them, which ameliorates the tension of the trial. In Heart of Darkness, Marlow misses information because of circumstances out of his control. When Marlow first sees Kurtz, Marlow hears from a distance,...

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