But of course these two "arguments"--that figurative language is necessary to define democracy, and that democracy permits such luxuries as figurative language - are really two faces of a single argument, an argument defining democracy, in part, as that form of government which recognizes the necessity of certain luxuries.
(Source: Bogel, Fredric V. "Understanding Prose." Teaching Prose. Ed. Frederic V. Bogel and Katherine K. Gottschalk. New York: W. W. Norton Company, Inc., 1988. 172. )
In its treatment of imperialism and individual experience, Heart of Darkness is on many levels a story about ambiguity. Thus, Marlow’s use of language is at the very least thematic. Throughout the book, words assume a bizarre, almost fetishistic power: “ivory,” for example, becomes almost more concrete than the elephant tusks themselves. The name “ Kurtz ” also takes on a life of its own, as it comes to stand for a set of legends and rumors rather than an actual man. Marlow becomes suspicious of words, as they threaten to overtake and distort the meaning they are supposed to convey. On the one hand, words fail to reflect reality adequately, and reality is often so paradoxical that the words don’t exist to describe it; but, on the other hand, words sometimes take on an independent life of their own. Marlow’s vague terminology, in addition to possessing a lyrical beauty, helps him to negotiate the dual threats of language.