Heart of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad

Main Characters

Marlow - Young man who decides that it
would be exiting to travel into Africa hunting ivory and does so by taking
the place of a dead steamboat captain.

Kurts - Famous man among the ivory seekers
who has lived and hunted on the continent for a while and has exploited
the savages becoming much like a savage himself.

Russian fool - Man who is known by his
clothes with many colorful patches making him look much like a harlequin.

He works with Kurtz who proves to be poor company for him.

The Intended - Kurtz’s bride to be who
at the end of the book still thinks that Kurtz was the great man that she
remembered him to be and Marlow doesn’t have the heart to tell her otherwise.

Minor Characters

Helmsman - Man who steers the steamboat
but goes away from the wheel to fight the savages only to be killed by
an arrow.

Accountant - Accountant who takes care
of the money matters for Kurtz and has lived on the continent for three
years trying to keep his civilized nature.

Settings

Central Station - This is the station where

Marlow meets the accountant and observes the way the whites do nothing
but exploit the blacks to do pointless labor.

Inner Station - This is the station where

Kurtz works and where Marlow finds him being worshipped by the savages.

Thames River - Marlow tells his story to
various people here.

Plot

Marlow sits at the Thames River in
the evening with several other people and begins telling the story about
how he entered into the dark continent out of nowhere. No one wants
to listen but he continues anyway.

Marlow expressed a desire to go
to Africa to his Aunt who got him a position as a captain of a steamboat
of an ivory company. The previous captain Freslaven died in a scuffle
with the natives and Marlow took his place. A few days later, Marlow
travels to Africa and gets to the first station where he meets the accountant
who keeps track of the funds in Kurtz’s company. The man is interesting
to Marlow since he’s been on the continent for three years, yet he keeps
himself clean and well dressed. Marlow finds the blacks being poorly
treated and ordered to do meaningless work by the whites. Marlow
continues down the river on his steamboat with a crew of several whites
and about 20 to 30 blacks. As he travels down the river, he comes
across this shack where he picks up wood, and a note cautioning him to
travel carefully. He continues down the river and becomes surrounded
by savages in the fog. Marlow is frightened but the savages don’t
do anything... until the fog rises. The savages attack and Marlows
men fire back. The arrows of the savages have little effect on Marlow’s
men or his boat. And the guns of Marlow’s men have little effect
on the savages since they fire too high. Only Marlow’s helmsman dies.

Marlow blows the whistle and mysteriously, all the savages retreat in fear.

Marlow shortly reaches the inner station where he is greeted by the Russian

Fool who seems to survive in the heart of the continent by not knowing
what’s going on around him. Kurtz is very ill and needs to be taken
back to England, but he does not want to go. In fact, he is the one
who ordered the attack on the steamboat so that they couldn’t take him
back to England. Kurtz is worshipped by the natives and completely
exploits them. Kurtz tries to escape to the natives but Marlow catches
him and takes him back to the steamboat head back for England. While
still on the river, Kurtz dies saying, "The horror, the horror."

Marlow returns to England. He visits Kurtz’s intended who is still
in mourning a year after Kurtz’s death. She still remembers Kurtz
as the great man he was before he left, and Marlow doesn’t tell her what
he had become before he dies. Marlow gives Kurtz her old letters
and leaves.

Symbols

Shoes - These symbolize civilization and
protection.

Ivory - The symbolizes the pagan God that
is so worshipped by Kurtz and other whites.

Whistle - This symbolizes the unsupported
fear each man has.

Style

Conrad’s prose is very descriptive
and informative. He portrays terrifying images and conveys horrifying
truths in a mystic voice that contrasts effectively with the true horrors
of his message. Foreshadowing and suspense is used to heighten this
exciting novel.

Dominant Philosophy

Conrad deals in this novel with the
dark heart of mankind,