The tale is littered with references throughout regarding how there is a constant shadow of darkness over the characters, following them throughout their travels. The narrator encounters it even before setting foot in the African jungle, when he saw the two women knitting outside “the door of darkness.” (Conrad, Chapter 1, p. 8)
The madness which overtakes the character throughout the tale seems to emanate from this darkness; it seems so widespread at a point in the story that it affects everyone from the main character to the entire crew. Even the madness which affects Kurtz seems to take its origin from the darkness. The narrator’s description of how crew is so sick that he does not even believe them to be appetizing to the native cannibals is very telling of this fact.
It can be extrapolated then that this tale very closely follows the inherent loss of sanity on the part of Marlow and how he deals with it. The protection of his psyche by creating a delusion in the form of the harlequin is a powerful story device which is used effectively by the author to both expand upon the story and also the personal objectives and beliefs of the main character.
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