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Patrick McEvoy-Halston English 439AlIvI01 Dr.

SusanHuntley Elderkin 16 June 2003 PrivilegingMarlowe Smith, in "'Too Beautiful Altogether': Ideologiesof Genderand Empire in Johanna Heart of Darkness,"arguesthat Marlow is attemptingto revitalizewhat had becomean old his spheres.According to Smith, Marlow is an ideologue who presents conceptionof separate listenerswith a new Kurtzian imperialism in hopesof challengingand helping replacea feminine Marlow's skill as a she one. If Smith is correctin her suspicions, certainlyoveremphasizes with women is everywhere as craftsmanand his effectiveness a spokesman.His uneasiness with a spheres createsseparate manifest and obvious in the text. So too is his ineptness--he masculineone which includesat leastone woman! But imperialismnever loosesits taint of just as influencenever seems lose its taint as a to in feminine acquisitiveness his narrative, it to responses compromisingsituations, feminine power. Quite possibly,given his characteristic is more accurateand helpful to imagine Marlow as more intent on using his priviieged position as narratorto establishhimself as a skilful evaderrather than an imperialistic Darth Vader. Marlow's fascinationwith and fear of the power and influence of women is more evident in the text than Smith appreciates.Smith, hoping to emphasizethe importanceand relevanceof feminist analysis,prefersto construeMarlow as an effective and menacingopponent. That is, she seesMarlow as proficient in effectively charactenzingwomenas weak and delicate. His narratorof his story" (Smith I73;emphasisin original),1 power, shetells us, "as the masculine split ,n$t,tr/e allows him to effectively silence,commodify, and belittle the women in his "tale." She argues that we needto be armedwith discursiveanalyticalskills, with feminine critiquesof ideology,in order to better recognizeand resistbeing victimized by "Marlow's narrative aim to 'colonize'


Hereafter all quotationstaken from pagesnumberedbetween 169 to 183 refer to Smith's essay. All other quotations refer to JosephConrad's Heart of Darkness.


and of Smith'sconception Marlow's intentions her and 'pacify' women"(170). Considering that as for high regard his competence well ashis villainy,it is not surprising Smithmisses her and/orcontests thesis. that evidence complicates For instance,Smith believesthat Marlow is attemptingto reinforce an ideology of century. Shebelievesthat spheres which waslosing its influenceby the late nineteenth separate and/or he is attemptingto createan ideologywhich imagineswomenasincapableof accepting we hancilingthe purportedlyhard truthsof reality. Yet the first encounter havein the text (orher is whoseauthoritativepresence built upon an extended than with Marlow) with someone office' She Brussels with experience truthsof this kind is theold womanat theCompany's abroad. She knowsthat;g few of the men that comebeforeher will survivetheir experiences seems "uncannyandfateful" (25), andmakesMarlow feel very uncomfortable. Smith rightly not but with associations oneof thethreeFates, does the recognizes old woman'smythological and ignorant womenasessentially explainwhy Marlow,if hemeanfto establish ,-. U9- convincingly

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men's to ability divine whose FateJike permit figure would a hard of handling truths,




towmdsyoungmen futureis neverreallybelittledin thetext. The old woman'scallousattitude

to as is characterized a realistic andlegitimateresponse the fate sherightly knows awaitsmostof the men shesees.And it is an attitudethat Marlow adopts,andis delightedto mimic, in his own onboardthe Nellie (50). (And alsowhile in thejungle: he tells us he treafinentof his attendees him thatthe pilgrims"considered brutallycallous"[87]). thought Marlow allows her. Smith too Smith passes quickly over anothersurprisingassociation who "'pilot[s] youngmen into the remindsus that Marlow portraysthe old womanassomeone that Company',"andsuggests theold womanis beinglikenedto "the pilot who ferriesthedead thatif thereis an almostreliablyexclusive, across Styx into Hades"(175). Smithis aware the

(182)'of of in fraternity thenovelit is thebrotherhood seamen and homosocial masculine loners,yet doesnot explorewhy Marlow, in effect, includesthe old womanwithin empowercd ferriesdoomedsoulsto the most who successfully this fratemity! Comparingher to someone thing for Marlow to do if his intent hellish of imaginedplacesis an especiallystrange dangerous, that womenaretoo delicateto ventureabroad. was solely to convincereaders to that Marlow attempts "stabilizehis masculinity," a To be fair, Smith argues by wasthreatened the old woman,in relationto his aunt (and alsothe masculinitysherecognizes Intended)(176). Shetells us that in his "farewell visit to his aunt,he usesher feminine lack of imperialistrhetoricto consuuctthe and experience debased 'sentimental presence'that canbe

with his (17S).Smith,in dramatizing encountel from an 'idea' andthenrejected" distinguished his aunt asonein which he usesher, fails to considerit more asonein which he felt used. his Marlow describes aunt as"triumphanf' (2?), andit is possibleto readhim asmorereactive and than active,asmore a victim than a victimizer in this scene, to judge his cutting aftef-thein as fact commentary largely compensatory nature. in ' Certainly it is an encounter which his aunt's influenceandpower in the Companvand potentiallyover him is madeclearto Marlow, andit is alsoonein which his aunthasboth the |l"t A'fo.".?ll

as attendee a triumphant,domineerin i m' right to dominatea dependent , tonal authority and assumed matriarch. WhenMarlow quotesher "exact" wording, we hearher patronizingtone,her Marlow authority:"'You forget,dearCharlizt. . .1"' (27). As with the old woman, assumed to (27). This rebukeis his aunt's response Marlow feeling a in feelsuncomfortable her presence needto resisther-whether simply her idealisticbeliefs,aswe aretold, or the entirety of her authorityover him, we cannotbe sure. His quibblewith her and/orher views, if we tr':st wasdelicately,evenmeekly,delivered: "I venturedto hint Marlow's accountof this encounter,

that the Company was run for profit" (27). It is not clear that his "delicacy" was born out of a delicate and needto be civilized, or out of an awareness sensitivityto his aunt's own supposed nature. Instead,he might have beencarefully attemptingto contesther authority without inviting upon himself a humiliating lecture. That is, he might have moderatedhis delivery more out of fear of reprisalsthan for any other reason. As it turns out. for his miniscule display of impudence,he is patronized,lecturedat, told to "wear flannel, [and to] be sureto write," and afterwards,likely owing to thesehumiliations, he is left still feeling "queer" (27) and uneasy.

fbsurd nature of women is evidence Marlow's after-the-factcommentaryon the supposed that he continuesto be disturbedby this encounteras he narratesit. His diatribe reeksof as retroactivecompensation, if he were still trying to counterthe authority his aunt once had over are of him. His assertions female weakness thereforetainted,and are hardly ideal for the project spheres Smith imaginesthat they are intendedto serve. Marlow cannot arguewell for separate basedon female weaknessand male hardinesswhen he showshimself to be somethingof a coward, somethingless than a Man. Not only doesMarlow not manageto "sta'oiiizeiiis riiasculinity" in the prescuusof liis aunt, his aunt, more than the old woman, continuesto "bewitch" (38) his existencein Africa. authority in Marlow's encounterwith his aunt, sheis While Smith mistakeswho demonstrates of right in assumingthat Marlow hopedthat his awareness the ultimately materialistic motivations behind imperialistic efforts privileges him in someway. But even in Africa it is (41) which makeshim impressiveto Companymen. The "dear aunt's influential acquaintances" "influences in Europe" (42), manager'sagent,the brick maker, imaginesMarlow as possessing his and it is Marlow who recognrzes aunt as the sourceof his (Marlow's) inflated reputation. Marlow tells us that he "let the young fool t. . .1believeanythinghe liked to imagine as to [his] [.

. .l influences [. . .], [but that he also] t. . .1therebybecamein an instant as much of a pretenceas the rest of the bewitched pilgrims" (42). And it is possiblethat the reasonhe compareshimself to the bewitchedpilgrims is that, despitehis denial that there was anyone"behind" (43) him, he knows that his aunt's influence over him is real, substantial,and offers tantahzingbenefits. The brick maker, after all, likens Marlow to Kurtz (4I). Marlow is imagined by the brick maker to be Kurtz's potential competitionfor GeneralManager;that is, as a rival, a potential equal. And while Marlow, so often forced to bite his tongue,finds nothing more appealingabout Kurtz than his "impudence" (47),2Kurtz can only get away with being impudent to rivals his because connectionsin Europe make him seemear-markedfor GeneralManager @l). Kurtz's connectionsgive him a degreeof immunity to reprisals(from rivals at least) so that his insulting lettersto the Central Station's managerhave not affectedhis star status. Since effeminateplaces(88), Kurtz's connectionslink him to, if Europeancapitals are charactenzedas not female relations,certainly to effeminatemen. His capacityfor direct, "manly"3 impudenceis thereforeportrayedby Marlow as being enabledthrough feminine influences. If Marlow permittedhimself to make use of his aunt's connectionshe would likely becomeas empowered as Kurtz or the person Kurtz directly rebuked,the Central Station's manager,is. However, he is would make also awarethat he would owe his statusto his aunt efforts and that this dependence him pathetic. He would havepower over others,but would conceiveof himself as more his of aunt's cagedpet than a caging patriarch. We know this because the specialinterestMarlow the takesin the manager'sspecial"boy" (37), andby the way in which Marlow characterizes


such "Canyou imagine and to of for He quotes us theentirety Kurtz'smessage the manager thenasks, different in over of his e?" (47). Arguably, expression wonderment Kurtz'sbehaviour is not altogether impudenc of and incredulity inadequacy women(27). to from his reaction the supposed 3 quit, trait,or a traitthat as is impudence boldness largelyportrayed a feminine or possibly, Heartof Darkness, in is intrinsicto womenratherthanmen.

Central Station manager. Other than the brick maker, the only personat the Central Station who is favouredby the manageris "his 'boy'--an overfed young negro from the coast," who is to Marlow an

s] and despicablefigure that "treats the white men, under [the manager' [. . .] very embarrassing eyes,with provoking insolence" (37). The negro's insolence,his impudence,dependsentirely on him being the manager's"favourite." And we should not be surprisedthat the manageris in many ways a compositeof the old woman and, more importantly, of Marlow's aunt. As with the Marlow isolatesas having the power to old woman, as with his aunt, the manageris someone make othersfeel uneasy" (37). (And he tells us, "You have no idea how effective such a . . . a . . the . faculty can be.) Like the old woman, his gazemakesMarlow feel uneasy. It r,vas old woman's looks' "swift and indifferent placidity" (25) that affectedMarlow, while it is the "trenchantand heavy" (36) natureof the manager's gazethat affectshim. Just as he had the charactenzedhisaunt (and women in general),Marlow describes manageras existing in his own odd and impregnablebubble: When annoyedat meal-timesby the constantquarrelsof the white men about he precedence, orderedan immenseround table to be made,for which a special househad to be built. This was the station'smess-room.Where he sat was the first place--therest were nowhere. One felt this to be his unalterableconviction. (37) Like his aunt, the man agerexpects,demands,and other than with Kurrz, receivesdutiful attendance.And as was true with his aunt, "he paid no attentionto t. . .] [Marlowe's] explanations"(37). Marlow comesclose to literally running away from the manager. He saveshis scathing

s] commentaryof the manageruntil "he flung out of his [the manager' hut" (38). Running away, of a or turning "his back on" (38) thosewho unnervehim is as frequently encountered response Marlow's to feeling uncomfortableas is his back-biting commentary. The two reactionsusually go together. He doesn't fling himself away from his aunt (mind You,as Smith points out, he goesto Africa as much in hopesof distancinghimself from the influenceof womenllT6l as to travel to the heart of the jungle), but he feels the needto suddenlyinform his listenersthat he was well "used to clear out for any part of the world at twenty-four hours' notice, with less thought than most men give to the crossingof a street" (27). As with his reactionto the Central Station manager,however, he usually doesnot rely on his imaginationto remind himself of his mobility. He usuallyjust moves. However, overwhelmedafter seeinga connectionbetweenhimself and the the acquisitive,power hungry Companymen and pilgrims, he doesfinally demonstrate power his position as narratorpotentially offers him to createsometemporal spacebetween himself and a compromisingsituation. After admitting this connectionand his feelings of insubstantiality,Marlow returnsto the feelings of onboardthe Nellie. In this instancehe escapes "present" to lecture his attendees while relating his memory of the incident by, in effect, distressthat he may have re-experienced himself that he is a ir.avelingthrough time! He makesuse of his narrativepower to help persuade of voyager,a wanderer,pan of an ancientbrotherhooci seamenwho have remainedtire sautc it sinceEngland was herself a primordial land. To seamen, is the vicissitudesof time which are of so, unsubstantial, too, the attractiveness the secretsof continents(19). His return to the of "present" is a return, then, thanksto the unnamednarrator'sassessment him, to his identity as of a "trustworthy" "pilot" (I7), andmaybe a strategy his (Marlow's) to help purifyhimself of "rotten" (42) feelings.

of When he returnsto his remembrances his past,immediately after he finishes relating his encounterwith the brick maker,Marlow tells his listenersthat he sought"comfort" (44) with "the few mechanics onboardhis boat. More than this, he tells us/themof his associations there were in that station," who, owing to their "imperfect manners,"were "despised"by the Companypilgrims (aa). He also pals about with a modest,honest,"good worker" (44). Marlow evident pleasurein isolating himself from the Companymen and in both sharingand ta-kes identifying himself with the few honestsouls about him. Amongst people too "unimportant" to draw attention,too "simple" to be interestingto thosefascinatedwith intrigues and mysteries, but seeminglyunaffectedby others' opinion of them, Marlow is happy. It is not impossiblethat is more than anything else, a searchfor happiness what motivatedMarlow's narrative. There is in iio doubt that women trouble Marlow, and that they are constrrred the narrative as dangerous they offer meii. Tirere caii also bs no doubt tha'rire wuulri Ls of in part because the pleasures sphereideology. However, he delightedif his narrative contributedto revitalizing separate idealizesthe peripheralloner so much in the text, while condemninginfluence and power, that he in doesnot establishany clear meanswhereby any man, or companyof men, could succeed constrainingand containing women without therebydemonstrating"unbounded" (178) feminine power and impudence. Smith is correctthat Kurtz's "'unboundedeloquence"'(176) delightsMarlow, but just as into somethinglike admiration" (7I) for the Marlow is willing to admit that he "was seduced Russianattendantto Kurtz,he admits his fascinationwith Kurtz's eloquenceas part of a twinned despiteat which will havehim ultimatelydamn it. Marlow's own manliness, narrativesequence times pretendingthat he is immune to continentalattractions,ultimately dependson his success in resistingthem.r'H"knows that Kurtz's eloquencemakeshim great,but also that it is entwined



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which ultimately is not distinguishedfrom an with a suspectdesirefor impudent self-assertion unboundedand tragic desirefor "successand power" (85). Marlow is thereforeseriouswhen he claims that he is "not preparedto affirm the fellow [Kurtz] was exactly worth the life [a helmsmanl[he] t. . .1lost in gettingto him" (67). And Marlow is likely relievedratherthan of to saddened find that "[a]ll that had beenKurtz's had passed [his] [Marlow's] [. . .] hands" he it (90). That is, Marlow, because guarantees will not suffer Kurtz' s fate, is glad that Fate worked to circumscribehis own potential influence. Smith knows that what shelabels as a Kurtzian imperialism is not somethingMarlow presentsas arising out of the efforts of comrptible Kurtzs, but implausibly implies that it could betweenfellow bonds" (182) established ariseout of the "strengthof [the] t. . .l homosocial "helmsmen." That is, shethinks it will ariseout of men whose virtues include the modestyof of their ambitions and the narrowness their focus and interests,and who steerclear of power and prestige(and especiallywith Madow, uncomfortablesituationsas welli) *o kind of colonrzatron



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of Marlow'scommodification the savage in is ultimatelyvalidated the text. This includes desire womenfo. tf,ingi'#4 of insatiable of as woman, it bringsto mind associations thesupposed lattiJr,,r p+r*,z q lq^:7 oL doo. co of foi m muchasit doestheobjectifying ale gaze.And nt herois pre(ented the leadership any colonizingeffort. Certainly not Marlow, who fearsold womenalmostasmuch ashe doeshis of aunt,andwhosesadistictreatment the Intendedis not evidenceof manly brutality or an ideal displayof male power,but of cowardlyretributioninstead. That is, the Intended,one of the less himself uponfor intimidating or pressingfemaleor feminine figures,is the womanhe revenges of feeling consistentlyawkwardin the presence the text's otherfemaleor feminine characters. imitate the brutality of the hunter,but he prefersto hide. Marlow might admireand sometimes (51); andhe is morea small beetle in He takespleasure imagininghimselfasa smallanonymous


dot on a boat than the cenueof a potentialsphtr€ of influe,nce.Marlow is too small' too insignificant,too pathetic,in fact, to wairant havingthe privilege of being the subjectof Smith's critical gaze.a



and is This assertion an exampleof narrativeexcess insensitivityon my part. No oxe is inconsequential:we all havebeautiful souls. A

Works Cited 1996. Ed. RossC Murtin. 2nded. Boston:BedfordBooks, Heartof Darkness. Joseph. Conrad, and of M. Smith,Johanna "'Too BeautifulAltogether':Ideologies Gender Empirein Heartof Ed. RossC Murfin. Znded. Boston: BedfordBooks, Darkness."In Heartof Darkness. 1996.

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