A Compendious Concordance of Key Quotations from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.  (65)

…to him the meaning of a yarn was not inside like a kernel, but outside, enveloping the tale (68)

The conquest of the earth…is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much… What redeems it is the idea only.  (69)

He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable.  And it has its fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination — you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate. (69) (see also 131)

I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. (73) (see also 149, 153)

Often, far away, I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall….Ave! Old knitter of black wool. Moriture te salutant. (74)

Oh, they never come back, and, moreover, the changes take place inside, you know.  (75)

I was one of the Workers, with a capital, you know. Something like an emissary (see 92) of light, something like a lower sort of apostle. (76)

Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, no one seemed particularly to care.  (77)

In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. (78) (see also 96, 80)

AThe other day I took up a man who hanged himself in the road.@ AHanged himself! Why, in God=s name?@ AWho knows? The sun too much for him, or the country, perhaps.@  (79)

I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass…. The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal….  They were building a railroad…. The cliff was not in the way or anything; this objectless blasting was all the work going on…. Another report from the cliff made me think of that warship I had seen firing into the continent.  (80) (See also 78)

You know I am not particularly tender…. I=ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; by the stars, these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils that swayed and drove men…but in that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly. (81)   (See also 93)

The work was going on.  The work. And this was the place some of the helpers had withdrawn to die. (The work: see also 76) They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly, now. (82)

…in the great demoralization of the land, he kept up appearances. That=s backbone.  (83)

On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said the was a first class agent…. >He is a very remarkable person…. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together.  (84)

Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to traveling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty too.  (85)

I couldn=t help asking him once what the meant coming there at all. ATo make money, of course. What do you think?@ (86)

I did not see the real significance of that wreck at once. I fancy I see it now….Certainly the affair was too stupid — when I think of it — to be altogether natural. (87 see also 89)

He was commonplace… He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear nor respect. He inspired uneasiness… You have no idea how effective such a faculty can be. (88)

…he…exclaimed  AAh, Mr. Kurtz! broke the stick of sealing wax and seemed dumfounded by the affair. (89)

Well, let us say three months before we can make a start.  Yes, that ought to do the affair… Afterwards…, it was borne in on me startlingly with what nicety he had estimated the time requisite for the affair. (89 see also 87)

I went to work the next day… In that way only, it seemed to me, I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of life. (89 see also 104, 106, 147)

…These men strolling aimlessly about in the yard… They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence.  The word Aivory@ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed.  You would think they were praying to it.  (89)

A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse.  By Jove!  I=ve never seen anything so unreal in my life.  (89)

There was an air of plotting about that station, but nothing came of it, of course. It was as unreal as everything else — as the philanthropic pretense of the whole concern, as their talk, as their government, as their show of work. (91)

Tell me pray, said I, who is this Mr. Kurtz?  The chief of the inner station, he answered in a short tone… He is a prodigy… he is an emissary (see 76) of pity and science and progress and devil knows what else.  (92)

I let him run on, this papier-mache Mephistopheles [see 81] and it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my forefinger through him and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe. (93)

You know I hate, detest, and can=t bear a lie… it appalls me. There is a taint of death…in lies… It makes me miserable and sick, like biting into something rotten would do. (94) (See 157)

… it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one=s existence — that which makes its truth, its meaning — its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream, alone. (95)

The pilgrims used to turn out in a body and empty every rifle they could lay hand on at him [the hippo]… All this energy was wasted, though. (96) (see also 78, 80)

I don=t like work — no man does — but I like what is in the work — the chance to find yourself.  Your own reality — for yourself, not for others — what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show and never can tell what it really means. (97)

Their talk was the talk of buccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage…. No more moral purpose than there is in burglars breaking a safe. (99)

…I was curious to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all and how he would set about his work when there. (99)

Get him hanged?  Why not? Anything — anything can be done in this country. (101) (see also 131)

Each station should be a beacon on the road to better things, a center for trade, of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.  (101) [manager sarcastically quoting Kurtz]

All sick. They die so quick…. Ah, my boy, trust to this… I say trust to this. (102)

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world…. (102)

….You thought yourself bewitched and cut off forever from everything you had known once.  (103)

There were moments the past came back, but it came in the form of an unrestful and noisy dream. (103)

When you have to attend to things of that sort [navigation], to the mere incidents f the surface, reality — the reality, I tell you — fades. The inner truth is hidden — luckily, luckily. (103)

When the steam-pipes started leaking, we crawled very slow. (104) (see also 89, 106, 147)

We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet.(105)

We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. (105)

The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy…. We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings…. The earth seemed unearthly.  (105)

No, they were not inhuman…. that was the worst of it — this suspicion of their not being inhuman.  What thrilled you was the thought of their humanity… the thought of your remote kinship (105)

The mind of man is capable of anything, because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. (106)

I had to mess about with white lead and strips of woolen blanket to put bandages on those leaky steampipes.  (106) (see also 89, 104, 147)

He must meet the truth with his own true stuff — with his own inborn strength. Principles won=t do. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags — rags that would fly off at the first good shake.  No; you want a deliberate belief.  (106)

I often had a little fever….the playful paw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminary trifling before the more serious onslaught which came in its due course. (113) (see also 121)

Why in the name of all the gnawing devils of hunger they didn=t go for us…. I saw something restraining, one of those human secrets that baffle probability. (112)

Restraint! What possible restraint…   No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles (see 106), they are less than chaff in a breeze…  It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly….  And these chaps too had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple. Restraint! (113). (See 106)

Now I will never hear him.   The man presented himself as a voice…. his ability to talk… his words…the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted, the most contemptible.  (119) ( See also 146, 151)

Absurd!…. Here you all are, each moored with two good addresses, like a hulk with two anchors, a butcher round one corner, a policeman around another, and temperature normal…. And you say Absurd! (120) (see 122)

A voice.  He was very little more than a voice (120)

The wilderness had patted him on the head, and behold, it was like a ball — an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and — lo — he had withered; It had taken him, lived him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own… (121)

AMy Intended, my ivory, my station my river, my –@ Everything belonged to him — but that was a trifle; The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness had claimed him for their own…. He had taken a high seat among the devils of that land. (121)

…without a policeman…no warning voice of a kind neighbor….  These little things make all the great difference.  When they are gone, you must fall back in your own innate strength, your own capacity for faithfulness. (122) (See 120)

All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.  (122-123)

[Kurtz=s Report] It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think… a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, >must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings… he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, but difficult to remember, you know… This was the unbounded power of eloquence — of words — of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later…. Exterminate all the brutes. (123)

But this [the report] must have been before his — let us say nerves — went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which — ass far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times — were offered up to him — do you understand? — to Mr. Kurtz himself. (123)

He [the helmsman] had no restraint, no restraint — just like Kurtz — a tree swayed by the wind (124) (See 113, 106)

You don=t talk to that man, you listen to him. (127)

I tell you…this man has enlarged my mind. (128) (See 130, 140)

They had talked all night, or more probably Kurtz had talked. AWe talked of everything…. He made me see things — things.@  (130) (See 140)

There was nothing on earth to prevent his killing whom he jolly well pleased. (131) (See 101)

This man suffered too much. He hated all this and somehow he couldn=t get away.  (131) (See 69)

These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing…  (132)

They [the heads] only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint (see 113, 124) in the gratification of his lusts, that there was something wanting in him….[that] could not be found under his magnificent eloquence.  Whether he knew this deficiency himself I can=t say. I think the knowledge came to him only …at the very last. (133) (See 147)

The wilderness had found him out early… It had whispered to him things about himself he did not know, things of which he had no conception until he took counsel with this great solitude, and this whisper proved irresistibly fascinating… he was hollow at the core.  (133) (See 144

Kurtz — that means short in German — don=t it?  Well, the name was as true as everything else in his life — and death. (135)

I saw him open his mouth wide. It gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him.  (135) (See 121, 152)

A voice! A voice!  It was grave, profound, vibrating…(136) (see 119, 146, 151)

Ah! but it was something to have at least a choice of nightmares. (138) (See 141, 148)

Oh, he enlarged my mind! (140) (See 128, 130)

I did not betray Mr. Kurtz — it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.  (141) (See 138, 148)

[Kurtz:] I had immense plans. I was on the threshold of great things.

…the memory of monstrous and gratified passions … This alone had driven him out to the edge of the forest… had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations. (143)

But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness it had looked within itself — and it had gone mad.  (144) See 133)

Only the barbarous and superb woman did not so much as flinch, and stretched tragically her bare arms after us over the pale and sombre and glittering river.  (145) (See 156)

[The pilgrims and the princess] Don=t! Don=t you frighten them away…  And then,, the imbecile crowd down on the deck started their little fun.  (145)

A voice! A voice!  Oh he struggled!  He struggled!  (146)   (See 119, 131, 136)

His was an impenetrable darkness. (147)

I was helping the engine driver take apart the leaky cylinders. (147) (See 89, 104, 106)

Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before and hope never to see again.  Oh, I wasn=t touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror — of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge?  He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision — he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:

The Horror! The horror!@  (147) (See 133)

Mistah Kurtz — he dead! (148)

Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself. (148)

I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine…. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be. (148)

I remained to dream the nightmare out to the end, and to show my loyalty to Kurtz once more. (148) (See 138, 141)

Kurtz was a remarkable man.  He had something to say — he said it.

Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up — he had judged. … This was the expression of some sort of belief… a glimpsed truth — the strange commingling of desire and hate…  It was an affirmation , a moral victory, paid for by innumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominable satisfactions. But it was victory! That is why I have remained loyal to Kurtz to the last… (149)

He had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot. (149)

I found myself back in the sepulchral city… (149) (See 73, 153)

It was not my strength that wanted nursing, it was my imagination that wanted soothing. (150)

To this day I am unable to say what was Kurtz=s profession, whether he ever had any.. (151)

…but heavens! How that man could talk. He electrified large meetings. He had faith — don=t you see? — he had the faith. He could get himself to believe anything — anything. He would have been a splendid leader of an extreme party. (151) (See 119)

I had a vision of him on the stretcher, opening his mouth voraciously as if the devour the earth with all its mankind…. (See 135) — a shadow insatiable of splendid appearances, of frightful realities — a shadow darker than night draped in folds of gorgeous eloquence.  (152)

[Meeting the Intended} The dusk was falling…The tall marble fireplace had a cold and monumental whiteness (See 73, 149)….  dark gleams on the flat surfaces like a sombre and polished sarcophagus…. She came forward, all in black, with a pale head, floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning…. The room seemed to have grown darker…. (153)

She put out her arms as if after a retreating figure…. resembling in this gesture another one, tragic also…. (156) (See 145)

His words will remain …. And his example. [irony, of course] (156)

The last word he pronounced was — your name.  I could not tell her. It would have been too dark. (157) (See 94)

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