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CHAPTER I (continued)
THE BOILER-MAKER. THE ELDORADO EXPEDITION
Even though the brickmaker protested that he was powerless to help, Marlow thinks his request for rivets may have done some good. After all, the brickmaker still thinks that Marlow is an influential man, and he does want to get into his good graces. Marlow returns to the boat, which he's taken to staying with day and night (he even sleeps on it). There he talks with his foreman, a boiler-maker by trade. The foreman is a rough, working-class mechanic, bald and bearded. He's disdained by the pilgrims, but Marlow admires him-after all, he works, as opposed to the pilgrims, who don't do much of anything.
Marlow's comments on the subject of work would have struck a responsive
chord in his Victorian audience. Work was one of the highest Victorian
values, and it's one of his own. He tells us that it's only through work
that you find your own reality, that you learn what has real meaning for
yourself. The subject of work is a running theme in the novel. Marlow
touched on it during his opening monologue when he maintained that the
"devotion to efficiency" is part of what redeems the excesses
of colonization (I, 1). Later, on the river, Marlow's devotion to work
(or to his boat, which comes to the same thing) will help to hold him
back from the edge of madness.
When Marlow tells the boiler-maker that he may have succeeded in getting their rivets, the two men get as excited as children. They dance a jig on the deck of the boat and raise a tremendous clatter, which the jungle answers with its huge, unnerving silence. Marlow predicts that the rivets will come in three weeks.
But they don't come. What comes instead is a party of explorers-Marlow calls them "an invasion, an infliction"named the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, and led by the manager's uncle. Eldorado was a mythical land of riches in South America. The Spanish conquistadors attempted to find it, and when they failed they ravaged the continent, leaving behind them a trail of conquest and misery. So "Eldorado" is the right name for the expedition: to Marlow, its members are just as disgusting and greedy as the other whites he's encountered so far. They've come to Africa "to tear the treasure out of the bowels of the land," and this desire to get rich, Marlow comments, "had no more moral purpose at the back of it than is in burglars breaking into a safe."
The first chapter ends here (with another brief mention of the mysterious Kurtz), but the chapter breaks aren't really very significant. Heart of Darkness first ran in three installments in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (February, March, April 1899), so Conrad (or the editors) divided it into three roughly equal parts for serialization.