These extracts, Marlow’s voyage up the Congo River in Heart of Darkness and the protagonist’s inspired exploration through the Congo’s most perilous terrain in Blood River contrast sharply. Physical suffering dominates a large role in the theme of danger with conventions such as the river and its surroundings being a staple of the theme. These extracts use physical and mental anguish to illustrate various and comparable conceptions of danger.
Both Conrad and Butcher are describing a river journey along the Congo River in Africa.
The river is treacherous and the journey is difficult; and they can only guess what lies further inland. However, both texts have a different purpose. Conrad was writing in 1898 and is openly criticising society’s beliefs at the time that colonial power is progressive and superior to other powers. Due to its critical nature it is considered as one of the earliest modern novels; because the novella is shedding a new light over the notion of colonialism and the bleak destruction it has both for the Africans and the Europeans who are colonising it.
Unlike Heart of Darkness, Blood River is a travelogue, non-fiction contemporary journey of H.M Stanley’s 1874-77 expedition; which Butcher himself is recreating.
Although Heart of Darkness was one of the first literary texts to provide a critical view of European imperial activities, it was initially read by critics as anything but controversial. The novella was typically read as a condemnation of an adventurer who could easily take advantage of imperialism’s opportunities.
Conrad’s decision to set the novella in a Belgian colony and to have Marlow work for a Belgian trading concern made it even easier for British readers to avoid seeing themselves reflected in Heart of Darkness. Although these early reactions seem ludicrous to a modern reader, they reinforce the novella’s central themes of hypocrisy and absurdity.
Conrad’s style of writing is highly descriptive which is to be expected of an early twentieth century novel. His lexis choice “profound anguish” and “excessive toil” sound slightly archaic and formal for contemporary readers. The writer is highlighting the fact that the forest is dangerous and savage as the forest natives take “possession of an accursed inheritance.” This suggests that Conrad is critical of the colonial authority which is implied through the use of the noun “inheritance”. The modifier “accursed” gives the impression that the natives are in some way associated with the devil. Religious beliefs at the time were beginning to be challenged and this is demonstrated through this lexis choice.
Butcher also mirrors the theme of danger through the use of dialogue in his writing. The narrator mentions the menacing threat of malaria on the plight of the Congolese, through speaking with another passenger onboard the perilous pirogue. Through the use of dialogue the writer harnesses the reader’s attention as Butcher provides a real life account of the physical suffering that affects Africans quotidian.
Conrad presents danger with a semantic field through the use of the lexical choice: trees and the Congo Riverbanks.
Conrad’s style of writing also contains many instances of contradictory language, reflecting Marlow’s difficult and uncomfortable position. The steamer, for example, “tears slowly along” the riverbank: “to tear” usually indicates great speed or haste, however, the oxymoronic addition of “slowly” immediately strips the phrase of any discernible meaning and adds a tone of absurdity. Butcher also uses contradictory language when describing the pirogue through the use of juxtaposition. “Its bow slid onto our bank with the lightest of kisses. The dreadnought was heavy…” The idiom lightest of kisses =