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Heart of Darkness - Beginning Through Marlow’s Being Hired as a Steamboat Captain

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Essay title: Heart of Darkness - Beginning Through Marlow’s Being Hired as a Steamboat Captain

Part I

Beginning through Marlow’s being hired as a steamboat captain.

Summary

At sundown, a pleasure ship called the Nellie lies anchored at the mouth of the Thames, waiting for the tide to go out. Five men relax on the deck of the ship: the Director of Companies, who is also the captain and host, the Lawyer, the Accountant, Marlow, and the unnamed Narrator. The five men, old friends held together by “the bond of the sea,” are restless yet meditative, as if waiting for something to happen. As darkness begins to fall, and the scene becomes “less brilliant but more profound,” the men recall the great men and ships that have set forth from the Thames on voyages of trade and exploration, frequently never to return. Suddenly Marlow remarks that this very spot was once “one of the dark places of the earth.” He notes that when the Romans first came to England, it was a great, savage wilderness to them. He imagines what it must have been like for a young Roman captain or soldier to come to a place so far from home and lacking in comforts.

Arriving at the Company’s offices, Marlow finds two sinister women there knitting black wool, one of whom admits him to a waiting room, where he looks at a map of Africa color-coded by colonial powers. A secretary takes him into the inner office for a cursory meeting with the head of the Company. Marlow signs his contract, and the secretary takes him off to be checked over by a doctor. The doctor takes measurements of his skull, remarking that he unfortunately doesn’t get to see those men who make it back from Africa. More important, the doctor tells Marlow, “the changes take place inside.” The doctor is interested in learning anything that may give Belgians an advantage in colonial situations.

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