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Pestilence

17 Apr

Heart of Darkness
Part II

Marlow is resting on the deck of his steamboat.  He gets to listen in on a conversation between the manager and his uncle.

Has anyone else noticed that Conrad is not keen on naming minor characters?

It was in this section that I noticed Conrad use variations of a word.

In speaking of a different wandering trader, the manager says,

“No one, as far as I know, unless a species of wandering trader–a pestilential fellow, snapping ivory from the natives,”

Pestilential?  as in relating to pestilence?  My kindle dictionary told me that the word means “harmful or destructive to crops or livestock”, but I liked dictionary.com’s definitions better.

3. pernicious; harmful.
4. annoyingly troublesome.

Ah, so this other trader is annoyingly troublesome, is he?  The two men decide to get the trader hung.  No one will question the manager’s authority.  Whoa.  Seems like we have a pestilential club.

These two really are a fan of pestilence.  Only a few sentences later, they use the word pestiferous to describe Kurtz’s plans for the trading stations.

“The fat man sighed.  ‘Very sad.’ ‘ and the pestiferous absurdity of his talk,’ continued the other; ‘ he bothered me enough when he was here.  “each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.”

The men end their conversation hoping that the Congo itself will take care of Kurtz.  So many other have died from illness or “other reasons”, maybe he will too.

The wandering trader is an annoying gnat-to-be-squashed and Kurtz’s plans for the trading posts are bothersome mosquitos?

pestiferous: 1. bringing or bearing disease. 2. pestilential  3. pernicious; evil.

Pestilence is more than a few bugs.
Pestilence is an epidemic, a plague.
It’s deadly and wide-spread.
In in the case of Heart of Darkness, it is evil.

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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Heart of Darkness

 

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