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Language in Modernism

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
Textual Analysis

  • Assessment: Textual Analysis
  • Mark: B
  • Year: 2005
  • Wordcount: 1668

An analysis of the following paragraph:
...for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he find the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seaman have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted) and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos, that sometimes, are made visibly by the spectral illumination of moonshine (Conrad, 1988: 9).

This extract, which is to be found almost in the beginning of the novel, gives the reader a theoretical insight into the exceptional way the story is being told. It informs the reader that this tale will not develop to a simple narrative but a sequence of impressions. Therefore these lines introduce an “adventure of writing, a self-conscious articulation of the possibilities of telling stories” (Burden, 1991: 53).

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