Heart of Darkness by: Joseph Conrad


The author placed the novel’s setting on a stream boat on a river near London. "The Nellie, a
cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest" (1). Then the
narrator tells his story in a flash back which he tells about Marlow’s experiences in the African jungle
specifically on the Congo river. The majority of the story is told in flash back about the voyage in to
the heart of darkness.


The central character is obviously Marlow. He is a man of modesty and courage, which are not
stereotypical traits of a sailor which he has become. The book focuses morally on his personal character
and then describes to the norm of the rest of the world. The character that Marlow becomes obsessed with
later is Kurtz. He is a mysterious dark man who made money trading ivory down the Congo river. "'In the
interior you
will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.' On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he
was a first-class agent" (85) here Marlow is talking to a captain and first finds out about Kurtz. Later
he finds out that he transports ivory. Among other insignificant characters on the boat deck of the
Nellli were a lawyer and an accountant. Their role seemed as only to be and audience to Marlow and the
other unnamed narrator.

Point of View:
The point of view is from Marlow, but the tale is told from a nameless observer. This is the
reason why the novel is in third person, and Marlow’s is refereed to also in third person.
Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast. He had sunken
cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with
his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol. (69)
Also the previous quote shows a honest virtue by being compared to as someone to look up to.


The story begins with Marlow and four other characters on a boat in the Thames river. The story
line then goes into a flashback, and tells Marlow’s story of his adventures in the Congo. He has a
connection to become a steam boat captain, but when he arrives at the first station he finds out that his
boat is at the bottom of the river. Also Marlow has to rise the boat and repair it with inferior tools.
"That, and the repairs when I brought the pieces to the station, took some months (79)." For it to take
so long it must have been second rate help and labor. Marlow secretly hears about a man names Kurtz and
become interested in him. He wanted to know about how he became such a good successful ivory trader.
One day the boat was traveling down the river and they were attacked by natives. [H]e,[the helmsman]
became instantly the prey of an abject funk, and would let that cripple of a steamboat (106)." Finally
they arrive at the inner station, where a Russian speaks of the !
illness that Kurtz has. Then the sicken Kurtz is brought on the boat. The Russian suggest that Kurtz be
taken away from the village. Kurtz had strange taste in personal wants. Marlow suggests that Kurtz was
warped by the jungle and would account for the heads on top of post, his lust for blood, and the raiding
parties on other villages. The Russian then takes a rifle and disappears into the jungle. Now that the
Russian is gone, the boat starts its way back up the river. The natives gather and the men open fire,
after Marlow blows the whistle to scare them off. Kurtz later talks to Marlow and confides in him.
Kurtz believes he will be dying soon. Marlow attempts to soothe him, but he is unchanged. That night
Kurtz dies. "Suddenly the manager's boy put his insolent black head in the doorway, and said in a tone of
scathing contempt: 'Mistah Kurtz -- he dead.'"
Feeling the way Marlow did he went to Kurtz’s wife to be and told her the news. She was astonished and
as Marlow said his last words, the story went back to the boat and Marlow was meditating like a Buddha.
"Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha (157)."


The Heart of Darkness looks deeply into the mist of man’s soul. Conrad’s depth suggests that he
was telling society about today’s problems