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The Silence of the Lands

             When a man hears nothing, he receives no information. However, in the proper context, silence can make more of an impact than words ever could. Because silence provides no information, it forces men to interpret situations by themselves and reach their own conclusions. Additionally, silence can express a thought or emotion whose complexity transcends the bounds of conventional language. Since Joseph Conrad explores topics of profound depth in Heart of Darkness, he frequently uses silence to convey what mere words cannot, symbolizing inexpressible concepts that exist only within the heart of man. .
             The nouvelle begins quietly with an appropriate hush among Marlow's crew. In depicting the opening scene aboard the Nellie, the narrator writes, "Between us there was . . . the bond of the sea" (1). He describes each of his shipmates and then continues, "We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was a silence on board the yacht. . . . We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisite brilliance" (2). Here Conrad opts to include only brief descriptions of his characters and their physical setting; the real substance of the moment, the atmosphere, lies in the unspoken tranquility of Marlow's shipmates. Permeating the air around the men, it communicates the deepness of their bond and the brilliance of the day's serenity to the reader. .
             Later in Marlow's tale, silence serves to represent mystifying grandness. Shortly after recalling his conversation with the Central Station's brickmaker, Marlow says, "Beyond the fence the forest stood up spectrally in the moonlight, and through the dim stir, through the faint sounds of that lamentable courtyard, the silence of the land went home to one's very heart--its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its concealed life" (22-23). The land's arcanum fills Marlow with a sense of wonder that words alone cannot articulate, and its silence stands as an index to some "amazing reality.

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