Heart of Darkness Chapter I (pages 1-10)

Quotes for discussion

“He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them- the ship; and so is their country-the sea”. (p.4)

Who speaks about Marlow in that way?

“I suppose you fellows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a bit”, that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow’s inconclusive experiences. (p.6)

Why does the narrator state they were fated as Marlow started speaking?

‘True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery— a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird—a silly little bird. Then I remembered there
was a big concern, a Company for trade on that river. Dash it all! I thought to myself, they can’t trade without using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water—steamboats! Why shouldn’t I try to get charge of one? I went on along Fleet Street, but could not shake off the idea. The snake had charmed me. (p.8)

Is Marlow an experienced sailor? Why or why not?

Yes, two black hens. Fresleven—that was the fellow’s name, a Dane—thought himself wronged somehow in the bargain, so he went ashore and started to hammer the chief of the village with a stick. Oh, it didn’t surprise me in the least to hear this, and at the same time to be told that Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs. No doubt he was; but he had been a couple of years already out there engaged in the noble cause, you know, and he probably felt the need at last of asserting his self-respect in some way. Therefore he whacked the old nigger mercilessly, while a big crowd of his people watched him, thunderstruck, till some man— I was told the chief’s son—in desperation at hearing the old chap yell, made a tentative jab with a spear at the white man— and of course it went quite easy between the shoulder-blades. Then the whole population cleared into the forest, expecting all kinds of calamities to happen, while, on the other hand, the steamer Fresleven commanded left also in a bad panic, in charge of the engineer, I believe. Afterwards nobody seemed to trouble much about Fresleven’s remains, till I got out and stepped into his shoes (p.9)

What is the connection between Fresleven and Marlow?

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