The two women at the beginning of Marlow’s journey remind me of the Fates from Greek mythology. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the Fates were personified as three very old women who spin the threads of human destiny.” Though there are only two women in Conrad’s story, they are shown “knitting black wool” on pages 79 and 80. Marlow describes one of them as seeming “to know all about them and about me too…she seemed uncanny and fateful.” The women’s eerie presence seems out of place in the narrative, but they add to the story’s overall theme of life and death.
One of the images that jumped out at me while reading is how Marlow describes the river as a snake on multiple occasions. It has ties to the tempting and ultimately dooming symbolism snakes hold in the Bible. In Genesis 3, a snake convinces Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had specifically instructed her and Adam not to do. When she and Adam eat the fruit, they rebel against God for the first time and thus introduce sin into the world. Due to the snake’s role in this story, snakes often symbolize evil in Western art and literature. In the case of Heart of Darkness, the temptation of Africa’s resources causes Britain to commit atrocities.
There are some distinct parallels between Marlow and Kurtz. Marlow repeatedly states that Kurtz only existed as a voice in his mind until he met him. He couldn’t come up with a mental picture of him. On page 92, the unnamed narrator says, “It had become so pitch dark…For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice” (Conrad). Both Marlow and Kurtz exist only as voices at certain points. Later, the Russian trader says, “[Kurtz] made me see things” (Conrad, 114). This seems connected to Marlow’s words to his audience on page 92: “Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything?” (Conrad). Despite his eventual disgust with Kurtz, Marlow still mirrors him in many ways.