The Inward Spiral

The way that Heart of Darkness presents Kurtz and the Intended — one has to make a few circles to get there. What I mean is, both are obviously figures of hope or salvation, in fact, both are figures that Marlow, oddly enough, wants to believe in — his “own choice of demons”, I think he said, despite the way in which he seems so dismissive of everything else. I think that there is a good reason for this. We had, lately, been talkig about the master / slave, we said that the slave is in a state of “absolute rejection”, rejection not only “tradition” (and thus, leading to the formation of the self), but even more, rejecting even the means by which this formation takes place. This can perhaps be equated to what Conrad calls “desolation”, which is the sense of the inhuman, the grand, that something inhuman (thus, not “tradition”) is at the root of all this.

But this leads to a problem, which is the problem of “living on” — a problem that we’ve struggled with for a long time: we must live on, we can’t simply live in rejection. Thus, I emphasized a few days ago a moment of tautology, which involved not only in the (masterly) “individuation” but also in the slave-like vision — the latter which remains undefined. However, I ran into unavoidable difficulties when thinking about how this latter, which must take place, could take place, without falling bacfk to mere “creativity”, to simply another form of individuation.

This is the problem that Conrad confronts when thinking about the Intended, it involves yet another inversion — namely, Marlow can’t, by himself, manifest a new, “tautological” reality, but rather relies on the vision of another — which becomes a trip back into society — via the woman. Before discussing this in detail, let’s return briefly to my last essay on “math”, which was necessarily unfinished (or maybe, finished in the sense that it dramatically confronts a problem). That essay attempted to establish two aspects about the development of modern math, first, that there is an “initial” understanding that then becomes merely technical, an “aberration”, that there is a fundamental difference between establishing, initating, or creating, versus sustaining, the latter which is merely “humanism”. The second aspect, however, is this necessarily unfinished attempt to return to this initial moment. It remains unfinished because it understands math as based on a rejection, but could not account for yet another inversion in this inward spiral, one of acceptance. … in other words, the earliest notions of math requires not only master and slave but also slave and messiah — or, equivalently, in Heart of Darkness, this equates to the rejectional movement of master and slave, a thematics of work, to man and woman, a sudden shift to the “romantic”, however unwillingly. Tghe original understanding of math, that initial flash, involves not, then, the lonely individual but rather one who looks towards the messiah.

Let’s actually talk about this situation as it plays out in HoD. The woman is “in another world”, yet she is “not young”, she has know “the depths of suffering” — this corresponds to the process of individuation of rejection. But then she has all these foolish notions of Kurtz that Marlow is forced to sit through. There is in fact a rather absolute divide between her and Marlow, the implication here is that she profoundly affects Marlow despite herself. This is not actually out of pity, though that word is dropped, but rather, because Marlow sees in her the possibility of purity, something that he can’t manifest by himself, ie, out of pure creaitivity. The flash at the beginning of things always involves a relationship to another. (Consider some further instances of this inversion — namely, the last words, “your name”, and the frame narrative device.)

Next: The flash


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