Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Tim Butcher’s ‘Blood River’ both explore the theme of danger throughout. This is achieved through Conrad and Butcher’s choice of lexis. The extract from ‘Heart of Darkness’ is taken from chapter eleven. In this extract, Marlow and the rest of the crew of the steamboat are being attacked by the natives of the Congo. The extract from ‘Blood River’ is taken from chapter ten (Bend in the River).
In this extract, Butcher describes how a child pickpocket is being attacked by an African mob. Both novels are written in 1st person, but ‘Heart of Darkness’ is fiction, whereas ‘Blood River’ is non-fiction. ‘Heart of Darkness’ was published in 1899 and ‘Blood River’ was published in 2007. The characterisation and narrative methods of the extracts are quite similar. In ‘Heart of Darkness’, Joseph Conrad gives a vivid image of how brutal the natives in the Congo might of been: “… the arrows came in swarms. They might have been poisoned… ”
This suggests to the reader that in the Congo, nobody is fully aware of the harm they cause to others or cares about the consequences of their actions as long as it does not affect them and highlights the dangerous nature of the Congo environment. In ‘Blood River’, Tim Butcher gives a vivid image of violent life in the Congo: “… the mob parted and there was the boy, with his arms twisted behind his back”.
This implies to the reader of how punishment is taken very seriously in the Congo, even when it is a small child being involved and shows just how danger is so common, it comes naturally to the natives of the Congo. The contexts of the extracts are very different to each other. In ‘Heart of Darkness’, Conrad expresses to the reader that when the novel was published in 1899, life in the Congo was quite dangerous, so when Marlow is attacked by the natives, while on the steamboat, it came as a surprise for him, although the danger was known to him: “Arrows by Jove! We were being shot at! ”
The use of the word ‘Jove’ emphasises to the reader that the attack came as a shock for Marlow and highlights the natives and their reaction to foreigners. In ‘Blood River’, Butcher expresses to the reader that at the moment, life in the Congo is different to what it was half a century ago, in the sense that people know more because of travel, news, etc, but the Congo itself has become more brutal and dangerous: “… I had witnesses numerous times during my stint covering Africa…
African mob justice was a terrifying thing. ” This implies to the reader that the Congo has changed dramatically over time and that violence is now a common thing to occur. The contextual factors of the two texts are very different as they were written in different times and so the historical backgrounds behind them are different. For example, when ‘Heart of Darkness’ was written, black men were called ‘niggers’ and it was thought to be normal to do so back then, but nowadays it would be an offence.
In ‘Blood river’, Bucher mentions how violent mobs is a thing he has “witnessed numerous times”, but half a century ago was a very rare thing to find in the Congo. The genres of the texts are slightly different. ‘Heart of Darkness’ has a sense of danger and adventure throughout most of the novel: “The side of his head hit the wheel twice, and the end of what appeared a long cane clattered round and knocked over a little camp-stool. ” This suggests to the reader that the novel has elements of danger in it and highlights the dangerous environment of the Congo.
‘Blood River’ also has the same elements of danger imprinted in the novel, but is presented in an informational manner: “In Swahili, toleka means ‘let’s go’, so shouting ‘toleka, toleka’, I urged my peddler to find the Cohydro offices. ”This suggests to the reader that the genre of Butcher’s novel is adventurous, but is laid out in a factual manner that might not be received in the same way as Conrad’s exciting manner of expressing danger in the Congo. The social, moral and political agendas of both texts are very different in the sense that the authors treat certain situations different morally.
In ‘Heart of Darkness’, Marlow shows that he has morals when he navigates the steamboat to safety and tries to help his fellow crew members: “He stood before the wide opening, glaring, and I yelled at him to come back, while I straightened the sudden twist out of that steamboat. ” This suggests to the reader that Marlow is heroic as he saves many lives during the attack on the steamboat. In ‘Blood River’, however, Tim Bucher seems to abandon his moral standards even though to help people in the Congo is considered pointless: “I was too preoccupied by my own emergency to worry about the boy’s plight.”
This too emphasises the futility of the crisis in the Congo and highlights the dangerous nature of the Congo environment. The features of language change in the extracts are only slight. In ‘Heart of Darkness’, when Marlow and the steamboat crew are attacked by the natives, the language seems archaic to a modern reader in the sense that the language used is no longer in everyday use, but sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavour: “Arrows by Jove!”
The use of the word ‘Jove’ shows the reader that the novel is very old-fashioned as nowadays we would use the expression ‘Oh my God! ’ instead. In ‘Blood River’, Butcher frequently uses modern language when explaining the dangers of the Congo: “The boy’s mouth was bleeding and the side of his face was squashed flat on the uneven concrete of the forecourt. It was a scene I had witnessed numerous times during my stint covering Africa.”
The use of the contemporary word ‘stint’, which means ‘job’, suggests to the reader that Butcher is trying to sound more modern when explaining the brutality of the Congo and the dangerous nature of the Congo environment, and the casualness of the word highlights that violence is quite commonplace in the Congo. It could also suggest that Butcher is at ease when discussing African violence as he has come across so much of it in the past. In conclusion, both extracts of ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘Blood River’ explore the theme of danger in similar ways, but have different effects on the readers.
For example, Conrad fictional writing, although based on true events, could be seen by the reader as just fiction and dangerous aspects of the novel might not be as taken across as important as Butcher’s real expedition of the Congo and the dangers it contains. Both Conrad and Butcher have shown their own views of the Congo very carefully within the texts, to an extent where the reader can see the views of both authors as their own, and allowing them to see how dangerous the Congo environment really is.
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