LITERATURE: Heart of Darkness – Narrative Sequence

Well, maybe not narrative sequence exactly, but a gap in the flow that sent me back several times to check if pages were stuck together and I’d missed something. Now I often read while watching TV or thinking about something else so that I’ve upon occasion stopped to realize that something doesn’t make sense because while I’ve read every word, I’ve not absorbed any of it, or been aware of what I was reading. Sort of like driving automatically without thinking about steering.

But this was in the middle of an action scene (the first, really), in Section 2, where Marlow is caught in a fog and then in a narrow passageway with the steamboat and is attacked by natives on shore. Then, all of a sudden, the object of his extreme curiosity, the trader, Kurtz, is being discussed as if Marlow has already met him. So I went back a few times, thinking perhaps two pages were stuck together and my mind seamlessly filled in the gap without concentrating.

No such thing. This is the way Conrad has written it and while I understand completely that since Marlowe is telling a story, he has every right to jump around in his thoughts. His spiel about Kurtz here is actually an afterthought brought about by the sudden danger of the situation and the death of his steerman, a native who was at least loyal as he was simple in his position. It is perhaps, then, a more natural and realistic dialogue then had he stuck point to point with a timeline. After all, all stories told in past tense have established a history, the end of the telling is merely choice.


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