Heart of Darkness character study : the Helmsman

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Throughout his voyage, Marlow encounters the helmsman. Although we do not know precisely how old he is, Marlow describes him as athletic. Thus we may conjecture, that the helmsman cannot be older than a man in his prime. Marlow meets him, on the ship that is taking them to Kurtz's station; the helmsman is in charge of steering the ship. When Marlow first sees the helmsman, he sports a pair of brass earrings and wears a blue cloth wrapper from the waist to the ankles. We can infer from his clothing, that he might not have any desire to integrate European civilization, for he wears his tradition al coast tribe's clothing. Marlow paints the helmsman's personality. He describes him as an "unstable kind of fool, who thought aIl the world of himself”. Marlow criticizes his way of steering. According to him, the helmsman, "steers with no end of a swagger white you are by; but if he lost sight of you, he would become instantly the prey of an abject funk, and would let that cripple of a steamboat get the upper hand of him in a minute". It is only in a few lines, in which Marlow portrays his companion in a rather pessimistic and intolerant way. However, Marlow's convictions about his companion are verified when the steamboat i Continue...


By throwing the helmsman overboard, Marlow spares him from becoming dinner for the cannibals, but he also saves him from what the helmsman might have considered the worse fate: the hypocrisy of a Christian burial by the pilgrims. Marlow's attitudes towards the helmsman can be contrasted with those of he brickmaker and the chief accountant . Their faces " twitched with the strain, the hands trembled slightly, the eyes forgot to wink" " a curious look of being painfully shocked by such an outrageous row". However, when he decides to throw his companion overboard, he first jerks the spear out of his side. Sign maybe of repulsion, but also of sympathy, for he could have just thrown the helmsman overboard without even feeling penitent. However, even though he had adopted the white men's attitude, he was not consideredas one of them either. The guilt of imposing values and perspectives that did not coincide with those of the natives. " When Marlow and his crew are caught in the fog and hear "savage discords till their ears". The helmsman, although he does not externally resemble white men, he does internally, I for he adopts the same attitude as the white men when he faces danger . The helmsman becomes mad, "his hands on the spokes, was lifting his knees high, stamping his feet, champing his mouth, like a reined-horse, his mouth foamed a little. It is those same values and perspectives that were the causes of the helmsman internal change, which led him to his death. When he hugs the helmsman from behind desperately (another symbolic sign of sympathy, and distant kinship), he says that he was probably the heaviest man on earth.