Heart of Darkness: Group 2: The Hunger

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219-h/219-h.htm

  1. Using the link above, locate the passage that begins “Why in the name…” and ends with “…whiteness of the fog.”
  2. Read the passage and answer the following question: If the “cannibal” African helpers on the steamer are so hungry and know that they are facing death why do they not eat Marlow and the European pilgrims? Why does the behavior of the crew differ from Marlow’s expectation?

3 Replies to “Heart of Darkness: Group 2: The Hunger”

  1. Marlow’s existence in Africa and his experiences at this point in the novel are shaped by his stereotypes and predispositions that had been fed to him as an English man living during Imperialism. For his entire life, he had been taught that those who were native to the continent of Africa were savages, pre-evolutionary people who were uncivilized and desperate for the help of Europeans. When Marlow is facing six times as many African men as he has European men, he expects some sort of animalistic savagery. This does not happen, and Marlow believes that it has to do with the fact that the “pilgrims” (Europeans) look so unappetizing as a result of their various states of illness. However, he then realizes that hunger outweighs disgust, and wonders if it could possibly be restraint that prevents the natives from attacking and eating him. Though he “would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst corpses of a battlefield,” he addresses the facts in front of him contradicting the beliefs and ideas that had been embedded into him from a young age.

  2. The African helpers reject the idea of eating Marlow and the European pilgrims because they still cling into the thought that cannibalism is forbidden. Their behavior differs from Marlow’s expectation because even in a different culture cannibalism is a taboo act, it is the lowest act a human can perform regardless of the circumstances. The restraint from the African helpers demonstrates that they have the mental capacity to tell what is right against what is wrong despite Marlow’s opinion of them to be monsters. Marlow expects them to act in a animalistic way maybe because that is what he would do. The level of starvation they are in is such that Marlow states it to be one of the hardest things men can face. This might show that they have more restraint than the European pilgrims themselves.

  3. It is understood that these thirty African men are starving and in need of food or they are going to die. Marlow does not understand why these men are not eating him and the other European pilgrims. Marlow surprisingly refers to them as humans and says, “it’s really easier to face bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition of one’s soul—than this kind of prolonged hunger.” Marlow continues to be confused but suggests that the reason for them not attacking is because they may be fearful of the Congo and their superstitions. Although, Marlow says “no fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is…”, but believes it is due to restraint. The African men are restraining from eating Marlow and the European pilgrims because they are not “savages” or “animals” they are humans and have self-control even during weakness.

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