that this society is inapplicable, though he won’t admit it, focusing on the clownishness of the Station’s inhabitants instead of the clownishness of the larger underlying situation. In terms of connections with larger themes, Marlow sees the “pilgrims” as shallow masks mouthing the words of the old society, with nothing underneath: “it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my forefinger through him,” the narrator states, “and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe” (Conrad 57). Although he is angry enough about the sham of the imperialist façade, Marlow does not explore the possibilities that this brings up; while seeing the failure of the Station society to come to terms with its surroundings, he nonetheless allies himself with them, as when he moves away from the beaten native servant in disgust to speak with the brick-maker. In a more empathetic narrative, Marlow might come around to seeing things from the servant’s point of view. It might be argued that he does this at times, as when he sees and imagines the servants and some of the “reclaimed” at the first outpost. What Marlow is really doing here, though, is projecting his own fears and thoughts onto them, rather than being truly empathetic.
Another passage of interest in the book is Marlow’s last contact with society, in the form of his conversation with the doctor. This passage shows how another key element in Heart of Darkness is the alternating presence and absence of the representatives of an imperialist society concerned with the narrator’s psychological state. Marlow, as he travels from Europe into the Congo, sees less and less of the individuals within his supporting society, and begins to see himself as the lone true
his guarded terror of his surroundings begins to overwhelm him. Later, when he sees one of the “reclaimed” natives raise a rifle, he thinks that it is because of “white men being so much alike at a distance that he could