Africa and Madness
“Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs. No doubt he was; but he had been a couple of years already out there…” (pg. 8)
This is the first instance that Conrad really hints to the idea that Africa might be the cause of madness among men. The fact that Fresleven, Marlow’s predecessor, was once a kind man but had deteriorated into a crazed man who had attacked a native man speaks volumes about what time spent in the Congo might do to a man. However, it must to acknowledged that it may not have been Africa that changed Fresleven. When a man previously part of a “cultured civilization” with concrete rules is thrust into a savage place where he is the master of his own rules and laws, it may have a negative effect on his psyche. There is no way to tell whether Fresleven lost hold of his gentle nature because the jungle changed him or because his own fragile mind could not cope with what being alone in the jungle meant.