Completing the quest: The hidden obstacles
Uploaded by tigger_84 on Jul 29, 2002
An obstacle is an attachment that is a hindrance to a protagonist in any piece of literature. To overcome the hidden obstacles, one has to be focused, never losing sight of the objective or goal. In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the protagonist, Marlow, encounters a number of obstacles that creates a temporary shield from the completion of his quest. Although creating transient setbacks, the breakdown of his steamer, being disliked by the company representatives, as well as the attack encountered, are obstacles that Marlow has to overcome to complete his quest.
The breakdown of his steamer creates an obstacle that devastates Marlow. Fifteen days after they arrive at the dilapidated Central Station, Marlow finds that the steamer he was to command has sunk. Marlow's devastation is echoed, as he narrates, "Still…But at the moment it presented itself simply as a confounded nuisance. The steamer was sunk" (Conrad 88). Marlow wonders in amazement at the mystery and devastation that he encounters when he realizes that the steamer had sunk. Something as simple as the steamboat's good condition, which can not be met, puzzles one to a great extent. This obstacle is the start of many others to follow, in the hopes of keeping Marlow from reaching Kurtz. In light of what he learns later, Marlow suspects the damage to the steamer may have been intentional, to keep him from reaching his destination to complete his quest.
Being the target of dislike by the company's representatives is another obstacle that Marlow encounters. They resent him because of his accomplishments that he has had on his journey so far--way more than any of them could have attained. The company is eager to send Marlow to Africa, because one of their steamer captains has recently been killed in a scuffle with the natives. Marlow observes small details of one of the company's representatives, on his encounter with him, "…If I tried I could poke my forefinger through him, and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe" (Conrad 95-96). This representative is the brickmaker, a petty and conniving man who assumes that other people are, too. He is the favourite of the manager, and a corporate spy. Marlow, naively setting out on his own childhood adventure, realizes how cynical society, or even a company representative can be out of spite. The jealously of the company's representatives becomes an obstacle for...