We are immediately led into a slow and calm description of our surroundings by an almost invisible character unknown to us and the company on board this boat. I can only presume it to be Conrad himself, but it immediately shows us how mysterious Conrad’s writing can be and what is to come, is not something of child’s reading, but rather an in depth, thought provoking novella that will lead us to think much about many things. We are on this boat, “The Nellie” waiting for the tide to turn so that we can start out on a journey of some kind.
This is a good start as this is an introduction to our journey that is of Marlow’s to Africa, and also of ours through the story. The sky before us is described as being “welded together without a joint”. This is an interesting description showing to me that what can be seen has no beginning and no end. This could be relating to the journey about to be undertaken. It is also a slightly strange description as I’m sure that is what it looks like, however, the sky never does touch the sea and who is to define whether or not it does.
Conrad also uses a lot of colour in this description of the scene we find ourselves in. “Luminous space” describing the port, “tanned barges” and “red clusters of canvas” all help to build up an image of the scene that the beginning of this story takes place. We are described as being on a sea of vanishing flatness. This flat, dull landscape is dotted with colour but appears to be quite a monotonous boring place which emphasises the waiting around for the tide to change which can be very long and tiresome. This waiting period is also described as having a “mournful gloom, brooding motionless”.
This sets the mood of the scene. We have been given descriptions of the scene, but a boring gloom seems to set the mood. We are also told that this gloom hangs over “the greatest town on earth” meaning London, so that we know where we are. Conrad then goes on to describe who is on the boat waiting for this tide to change. It is interesting that Conrad starts the story on a boat, as pretty much the entire novella takes place on boats and so this is quite a good introduction to getting the reader used to what a boat looks and feels like.
“The Director of Companies” is said to be staring out to sea, however, his place was in the gloom behind him, presumably in London. This makes us wonder why he is on a boat being described as a “pilot” which is the epitome of trust to every sailor. The Lawyer is sitting on a rug and cushion because of his “many years and many virtues”. This I believe is basically saying that the Lawyer is of a considerable age compared to the rest and therefore some comfort is given to him rather than the wooden boards of the boat.