A revealing Description of the River Thames

Essay by abdellatifCollege, UndergraduateA-, April 2008

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One crucial element in understanding Conrad's view of Europe is his depiction of the River Thames. Early in the first part of the novella, Conrad has made it clear to his audience that Europe is the cradle of civilization:The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, "followed the sea" with reverence and affection, than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea.

It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and untitled -- the great knights-errant of the sea. (Heart of Darkness, 4)In this passage Conrad prepares the reader for the seemingly belief that Europe is the mainspring of civilization. He considers the Thames a major waterway that has supported humanity from its source to its mouth for years, providing habitation, water, "tranquil dignity", "unceasing service", and "the august light of abiding memories". Through the formal dignified language used and the tone opted for, Conrad brilliantly and forcefully brings his high regard for the European civilization into the center of attention. For...