What Is the Role of the Framing Story of Heart of Darkness?
While reading a certain literary work, we usually pay our attention not only to its plot, but also to its structure, and the writing techniques used by its author. In fact, the author’s writing is considered to be of no less importance than the plot. It reveals the author’s inner world, his emotions. Furthermore, it can convey the portrayal of the characters, and let the reader experience the story by himself. To give an illustration of that, let us resort to a famous novella Heart of Darkness.
At first, there is a nameless narrator aboard the “Nellie” listening to a man telling stories. This man is Charles Marlow, who describes his journey to Africa. Here is the author’s main technique known as frame narrative or frame story. This method guides the reader through the events, from one to another, and draws his attention to the conditions where the story is told (Prudchenko, n.d., para. 2).
The first narrative forms an introduction to the second one. By setting the scene of the Thames and surroundings, it depicts the feeling of something dark, gloomy and depressing. “The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth” (Conrad, 2009, para. 2). In the end, the reader realizes this “darkness” is also related to humans’ hearts and souls.
The main narrative is written in first person, Marlow expresses his attitude during narration. “But, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men — men, I tell you.” This represents a connection between the reader and the narrator, as well as helps the reader feel the same way as the narrator.
Here is another example: “When near the buildings I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision.” In this example, Marlow not only describes the man, but also imposes his opinion about this man on the reader. So the reader should have the same point of view, and this is precisely the purpose of first-person narration.
In conclusion, these two techniques are the main characteristics of this novella, and can be considered as its features.
Conrad, J. (2009, June 18). Heart of Darkness. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219-h/219-h.htm
Prudchenko, K. What Are the Effects of a Frame Narrative? | The Classroom | Synonym. Retrieved from http://classroom.synonym.com/effects-frame-narrative-1733.html