My favorite passage of Heart of Darkness is the one where Marlow asks why is it that the natives have more restraint than the Europeans. Marlow is on his steamboat, on his way to meet Kurtz, and the boat is surrounded in fog when a desolate cry rings out through the jungle. The cannibalistic natives on board want to "catch 'im" and "eat 'im!" (60). Marlow realizes just how hungry the men are. The men have been working for the company for six months, eating only rotten hippo-meat. All that time, they were hungering for live human meat. Yet they did not attack the white men.
"What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear - or some kind of primitive honor?" (62). Yet, no fear or patience can overpower the insatiable urge for food. Disgust is nothing to a starving man. Beliefs "are less than chaff in a breeze" to those who hunger (62). It is a survival instinct shared by both humans and animals that all else is overlooked in the dire situation of self-preservation, of acquiring food. And, Marlow states that the natives "had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple", of which even that might not be powerful enough for even the strongest of men to overcome their blinding need for food. This complete lack of reason for the natives' restraint is what compels Marlow to state: "I would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield" (62).
What is it, about the natives, that allows them to have the strongest form of restraint, when from the European perspective, no restraint is possible? (keep in mind, both Kurtz and the dead native helmsman were said to have had no restraint.)