Heart of Darkness: Group 3: The Complaining Clamour


  1. Using the link above, locate the passage that begins “A complaining clamour, modulated in savage discords…” and ends with “…how they would live.”
  2. Read the passage and answer the following question: a. On the rare occasion that Africans speak, what can be inferred about what they say (and when they say it)? b. What do you make of the contrast between the way the Europeans and the Africans on the steamer react to the “clamour” on the shore?

3 Replies to “Heart of Darkness: Group 3: The Complaining Clamour”

  1. a. When the Africans speak they say “‘Catch ’im,’ he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth—‘catch ’im. Give ’im to us.’ ‘To you, eh?’ I asked; ‘what would you do with them?’ ‘Eat ‘im!’ ” Marlow says that he would have been horrified, but it occurred to him that the Africans onboard must have been very hungry, and nobody ever bothered to wonder if they knew they needed enough food for that length of time. This exchanges shows just how unimportant the Africans are to the Europeans that nobody cares if they have food to eat as long as the Europeans are fed and alive thats all that matters to them.

    b. When the Europeans and the Africans on the steamer hear the “clamour” on the shore they both react in very different ways. The Europeans were very upset and scared, ‘greatly discomposed’, but also very curious. The Europeans looked extremely shocked by the noises. The Africans, were pretty much the opposite, while they were alert, they were mostly pretty calm. Two of the men were even smiling as they ‘hauled at the chain’. This shows how scared and unprepared the Europeans were and how they aren’t used to being caught off guard by the unknown of Africa while the Africans may have heard these noises before and therefore aren’t scared like the Europeans.

  2. It can be said that when the Africans finally speak they do so because they need something, and not just to fill silence like with the Europeans. The African who speaks is saying something that he knows will scare or surprise the English in order to make it known that they have been without food for a while. It shows a big difference between how Europeans are accommodated compared to the Africans, and how much of an advantage they have because they are the ones with money and technology.

    The Africans and the Europeans react extremely differently to the clamor off the side of the ship. The Europeans are freaked out by it, even though they wonder what the noise is from. They feel like they are going to be over taken and torn to pieces by whatever is making the noise. On the other hand, the Africans knew to keep alert, but otherwise weren’t too phased by the sounds, as they knew what the sounds were coming from. It shows that the Europeans are definitely in the wrong place.

  3. A) The few times that the Africans speak in this book they do not use complete sentences unlike the Europeans so they are made to look less smart. Another observation is what they say sounds more savage compared to the Europeans. One example is in this passage when the Africans ask to eat other people because they have been starving.
    B) The reactions of the “clamor” of the Europeans were very different from the reactions of the Africans on the boat. The Europeans were shocked and put on edge shown by a couple of them grabbing weapons for protection and a sense of security. The Europeans thought they would be attacked and they were afraid. As opposed to the Africans reactions of being calm and grinning, showing they were not scared but pleased to hear this sound. The Africans on the ship were starving for quite some time and thought of food when they heard sounds from off the boat.

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