Download Bloom's Guides--Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (Comprehensive Research and Study Guide) PDF

TitleBloom's Guides--Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (Comprehensive Research and Study Guide)
File Size761.9 KB
Total Pages121
Table of Contents
Biographical Sketch
The Story Behind the Story
List of Characters
Summary and Analysis
Critical Views
Works by Joseph Conrad
Annotated Bibliography
Document Text Contents
Page 60


In Heart of Darkness, as I have shown in more detail
previously,5 the covert plot is the manager’s plot to ensure
the demise of Kurtz, his rival for promotion, by wrecking the
steamer and delaying its repair, so that Kurtz’s relief arrives
too late. As Marlow tells his tale, he is in process of perceiving
the full extent of the manager’s plot: “I did not see the real
significance of that wreck at once. I fancy I see it now, but I am
not sure—not at all. Certainly the affair was too stupid—when
I think of it—to be altogether natural. Still. . . .”6 The manager
estimates that the repair (which will be delayed by the lack
of rivets) will take as long as three months. Marlow says: “I
flung out of his hut. . . . He was a chattering idiot. Afterwards
I took it back when it was borne in upon me startlingly with
what extreme nicety he had estimated the time requisite for the
‘affair.’ ”7 Consequently, by the time the steamer reaches the
inner station, Kurtz is deranged and dying.

The covert plot, when perceived, increases greatly the tale’s
ironies: among other things, it makes a sardonic comment on
the belief of political Darwinians that the white man has a God-
given right to invade and colonise tropical lands; for it shows
that morally the Europeans, who treacherously scheme against
their fellows, are no better and indeed probably worse (because
of their hypocrisy) than those they purport to civilise. (We may
recall Conrad’s scorn for Lord Salisbury’s view that the “living
nations,” such as Great Britain, must inevitably encroach upon
and cut up the “dying.”) If harmony between creature and his
environment is a goal of the evolutionary process, that harmony
has been attained not by the restless white men, who, with the
exception of the abnormally healthy manager, tend to succumb
to illness within months of arrival in Africa, but by the natives
who so energetically paddle their canoe through the surf: “They
shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration, they had
faces like grotesque masks—these chaps; but they had bone,
muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was
as natural and true as the surf along their coast. They wanted no
excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at.”8

But, if the covert plot thus contributes importantly to the
tale’s themes, the reader may well ask why it is covert instead

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