Thursday, March 30th, 2006
How deep does the concept of unity go in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? Since Marlow tells a story of crossing, of penetration, then he also tells a story of bordered spatial conditions as movement from place to place, distinct space to distinct space, time to time. Even the text has borders
The land is made to speak. To whisper, to entice. Is this the sublime? “‘This one,’” Marlow says, “‘was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with an aspect of monotonous grimness.’” All maps have borders, as does experience, edges that give contour to perceived space. But borders also have to be crossed, the expansive space they mark off penetrated. Recall that earlier the narrator has already indicated that Marlow’s stories are “inconclusive” (1961), their edges difficult to determine.
The spaces, of course, can be conceived as concepts: light and dark, old and new, youth and age, forest and city.
Marlow maps his experiences into the heart of darkness and with Kurtz with story, inviting these unified images as aspects of passage. But can light and dark also be seen in terms of a continuum, like time or duration or change, in the story? One, in other words, doesn’t work well without the other in Heart of Darkness. Light is dependent on darkness, just as change is required to mark the passage of time.
If I saw the world as the same always, as a seamless set of experiences (which is impossible), then could I learn anything or grow as a human being, that is acquire a sense of personal history and future projection: Blake’s bard? This may be too much of a rhetorical question. But the notion recalls what was brought up in class: a multidimensional space whose x axis describes the present geographical moment, the y axis telling the story of change over time. A z axis would simply result from tilting the space such that any time or any cooresponding point on the graph could be presented either as time or as space or both: i.e., spime. Rather than present the past as a circle, the present as another, each overlapping, the axis graph allows for links to specific events in time and compared with others.
Somewhere lower on the y axis live the ancient Romans who rode the Thames just as modern sailors do. The new Romans can be pointed to a little higher, space intersecting with time. With a slight tilt, one replaces the space of the other. Historical unification.