as in Jim. The tale Conrad prepared to narrate was a tale in the manner of the older classical dramatists, wherein law--whether divine, as with Aeschylus, or natural, as with Sophocles--is justified to the self, whatever its agonies of discovery. But he managed to do a tale that put both the law and the self to question, and left them there. At the end (dated July 1900), Stein does not help:
Stein has aged greatly of late. He feels it himself, and says often that he is "preparing to leave all this; preparing to leave . . ." while he waves his hand sadly at his butterflies. ( 1953)
CONRAD'S "Heart of Darkness" has all the trappings of the conventional adventure tale--mystery, exotic setting, escape, suspense, unexpected attack. These, of course, are only the vehicle of something more fundamental, and one way of getting at what they symbolize is to see the story as a grail quest. Though Conrad is sparing in his explicit use of the metaphor ("a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares"), it is implicit in the structure of the action. As in the grail quest there is the search for some object, and those who find and can see the grail receive an illumination. Marlow, the central figure, is like a knight seeking the grail, and his journey even to the end follows the archetype. His grandiose references to the dark places of the earth, his talk of the secret of a continent, the farthest point of navigation, his sudden and unwonted sense that he is off not to the centre of a continent but to the centre of the earth-- these, occurring before he starts his journey, give it the atmosphere of a quest.
And in the journey itself there are the usual tests and obstacles of a quest. After Marlow passes through the bizarre company headquarters in Brussels and the inanity surrounding his voyage to the African coast,____________________