Of Darkness By Conrad
Author: Joseph Conrad Setting: The storyteller, Charlie Marlow, sits on the deck
of the Nellie recanting his journey to the Congo and his perception and
encounter with Kurtz and Kurtz’s intended. Plot: The telling of a remarkable
horror tale to the inner darkness of man, Kurtz/Marlow, and the center of the
earth, the Congo. Charlie Marlow gives the accounts of the double journey to the
passengers on the deck of the Nellie as she is held still by the tides. Key
Characters Charlie Marlow “Deviant” narrator (Conrad) to the reader
1 We are given a visual picture of a ship, the Nellie, going out to sea on the
Thames. The narrator describes the Director of Companies, like a pilot; the
lawyer, by his possessions; an accountant, by his action of bringing out
dominoes. But when the narrator describes Marlow he distinguishes him with a
name and a physical description. The narrator seems to idolize this man, Marlow.


Just the same way Marlow idolizes Kurtz. Marlow is physical posture symbolizes
Buddha. Marlow is different from the rest of the passengers. Quote: ‘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.’
“Architect” narrator (Conrad) to the reader 3 The reader has been
told of the Nellie going down the Thames to the center of the earth, but the
ship has stalled or held back by the tides. This makes the passengers prisoners
of the tale that is about to unfold from Marlow’s lips. This compares with Rime
of the Ancient Mariner, in that the mariner mesmerized the wedding guest with
his inner journey on the outer seas. Charlie Marlow is inspired by the darkness
of the surrounding ships of war to recant his journey to the Congo. The narrator
says that most seamen have simply stories, but not Marlow. Marlow’s tales are
like the way a Russian nesting doll works, open the doll and there is another
doll inside. The meaning and the characters are in the surrounding layers of the
intended destination, Kurtz and the Congo. This gives us the structure of
Marlow’s story telling-his legacy. Quote: ‘But Marlow was not typical (if his
propensity to spin yarns be expected), and to him the meaning of an episode was
not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale…’
“Visionary” Marlow to passengers of the Nellie 3 The narrator is
telling of the past travelers of the Thames ‘the dark “interlopers” of
Eastern trade, and the commissioned “generals” of East India fleets’.


Fortune seekers and conquerors of times before are related to the ivory trading
and powering over the natives of the Congo. The sun is setting the reference of
the coming of a dark tainted journey. Speaking of the Thames, Marlow calls it
only one of the dark places. He is giving an introduction to his tale of the
Congo. The vision of the Thames as one of the dark places is that in the end the
dark shadow of Kurtz still follows him even to Kurtz’s intended’s place through
the lie of Kurtz’s last words, her name. Quote: ‘”And this also,” said
Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”‘
“Loner” narrator to reader 3 Marlow has just spoken about the
Thames-one of the places of darkness. Just as the ancient mariner was destined
to take his fateful journey alone so is Marlow. Marlow journeys into himself and
wanders the sea unlike the other seamen who have land bound homes. Quote: ‘He
was the only man of us who still “followed the sea.”‘
“Rebel” narrator to the reader 4 Marlow is telling the passengers to
comprehend the journey of a young Rome conquer garbed in only a toga pushing
inland to the savagery of the center. Parallel to Marlow’s journey to the Congo
armed with only his good moral intentions of bettering the natives. Marlow is
preaching to the passengers, but is in a meditative position. His English dress
and Buddha demeanor conflict in a rebellious state of contrast with their
perspective norms. Quote: ‘he had the pose of a Buddha preaching in European
clothes and without a lotus flower’ “Avant-garde” Marlow to the
passengers of the Nellie 6 Marlow since his youth wanted to explore the
uncharted land of the Congo. When younger the map had nothing on it, but now
there was the snake of the river that had charmed him. Conrad is paralleled with
Marlow in his dream to be a seaman. Marlow had at first tried to secure a job on
a ship to the Congo on his own but was unsuccessful. He had always done things
on his own power and merit. Now, for the first time in his life he had to
recruit the women to influence a certain trading society to get the job he so
desperately wanted. He calls upon his aunt who does his bidding. Quote: ‘I,
Charlie Marlow, set the women to work-to get a job.’ “Conformist”
Marlow to the passengers of the Nellie 23 Marlow is at the central station.


The brickmaker is giving him some insight into Kurtz. The brickmaker, who
doesn’t make bricks, is inadvertently telling Marlow that the manager is trying
to rid himself of Kurtz by neglecting him. The manager fears that Kurtz’s would
steal his job, because of Kurtz’s gifted talent of acquiring ivory. Marlow only
has an ideal of Kurtz, like a sort of religion set around the image. Marlow has
been engulfed by the worship of Kurtz that he would lie for him. Quote: ‘I would
not have gone so far as to fight for Kurtz, but I went for him near enough to a
lie.’ “Judge” Marlow to passengers on the Nellie 23 Marlow doesn’t
actually lie to the brickmaker he just lets him believe what he wants in regards
to the influence that brought Marlow there to save Kurtz. Marlow judges a lie to
be appalling. Ironically, at the end of the novel Marlow lies to Kurtz’s
intended to spare her feelings and he believes Kurtz to have wanted it that way.


Marlow is judging the lie and his future actions. Quote: ‘you know I hate,
detest, and can’t bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us,
but simply because it appalls me.’ “Critic” Marlow to the passengers
of the Nellie 46 Marlow’s helmsman has died in the attack on the steamer.


Marlow feels that if the helmsman hadn’t opened the shutter and panicked by
shooting out at the bush he would still be alive. Marlow compares the helmsman
with Kurtz in the way he was unable to fight off the engulfing darkness of
greed. The helmsman showed none of the restraint in the situation that he had
shown in his control of cannibal hungry. Quote: ‘He had no restraint, no
restraint-just like Kurtz.’ “Caregiver” Marlow to the passengers of
the Nellie 46 Marlow is describing Kurtz after the death of the helmsman.


Marlow can’t express that Kurtz is worth the blood spilled on his shoes. Marlow
humanizes the helmsman, who is a native, when he says that they had a bond. He
took care of the helmsman by guarding his back while the helmsman steered for
him. Marlow gives the helmsman an English dignity with a seaman type burial to
prevent the ravaging of his body for food. Quote: ‘He steered for me-I had to
look after him.’ “Director” Marlow to passengers of the Nellie 47
The helmsman’s death has sparked talk among the cannibals of eating his remains.


Marlow feels that by keeping the body it will only lower the restraint of the
crew. He takes control of the situation by throwing the body over the side of
the boat. He is thought to be heartless in this act, but truly he is preserving
the dignity of the helmsman and the control of the ship’s crew. The volatile
situation of fighting for the remains is neutralized as it is enveloped in the
river. Quote: ‘He had been a very second-rate helmsman while alive, but now he
was dead he might have become a first-class temptation, and possibly cause
startling trouble.’ “Jester” Marlow to red-haired pilgrim 47 The
red-haired pilgrim said that they must have made a slaughter in the bush.


Basically all the man did was shoot aimlessly at the tops of the trees. The man
is boosting and Marlow makes a joke of the man’s ignorant pride. The only thing
they accomplished was to make a smoke screen over the river. Quote: ‘You made a
glorious lot of smoke, anyhow.’ “Dreamer” Marlow to the passengers of
the Nellie 51 Marlow has made if to Kurtz’s camp, and has met the Russian who’s
encampment he found earlier. At the campsite Marlow believes the man to be
English because he mistakes the Russian alphabet for cipher. There was also a
warning write to be careful from this point on. Marlow is listening to the
Russian describing Kurtz, when the jungle draws him away from the current
reality, the story and that moment in the story. The jungle is sucking him into
the loneliness and darkness. Marlow is feeling a moment of weakness, which is
why he is spiritually lifted out of that moment in time to the dark recesses of
the jungle heart. Quote: ‘I looked around, and I don’t know why, but I assure
you that never, never before did this land, this river, this jungle, the very
arch of this blazing sky, appear to me so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable
to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness.’ “Fanatic” Marlow to
passengers of the Nellie 53 Marlow has discovered that the fence he thought
encircled Kurtz’s camp is not a fence at all, but heads on stakes. This
realization makes Marlow entranced with them. He is fixated on there appearance
and goes into grave detail. Quote: ‘I returned deliberately to the first I had
seen-‘ Kurtz “Deviant” Brickmaker to Marlow 22 Marlow is speaking
with the brickmaker of the central station. The brick maker has a painting of a
woman draped and blindfolded carrying a lighted torch. Marlow inquires about the
painting and is told Kurtz painted the somber picture. Marlow wants to know who
Kurtz is. ‘Chief of the inner station’ replies the brickmaker. Marlow wants more
so e is sarcastic with the man ‘you are the brickmaker’. The brickmaker must
concede that Kurtz is and extraordinary man, not just a simple title, but a
unique individual. Quote: ‘He is a prodigy.’ “Loner” Kurtz writes 28
Marlow is laying on the deck of the steamer at the central station when he over
hears bits and pieces of a conversation between the uncle and the manager. From
what Marlow can decipher they are speaking of Kurtz. The uncle feels that if
Kurtz is without companionship maybe the climate will kill him. The manager says
he is alone, because he sent back his and assistant and a note. The note stated
he would rather be without anyone then the incompetent people the central
station seemed to be able to spare. Quote: ‘I had rather be alone than have the
kind of men you can dispose of with me.’ “Architect” Manager to uncle
29 Marlow is eavesdropping on the uncle and manager’s conniving and deceitful
neglect of Kurtz. Kurtz’s ideals and goals for the Congo bothered the manager.


The manager quotes Kurtz. Kurtz wanted to bring civilization to the uncivilized
through the use of the stations. He didn’t have but a second thought of the
economic profit when he first arrived in the Congo. This parallels with Marlow’s
moral intention for the natives to have a better life with technology. The
stations should be enlightenment for the natives to make them real people and
better their living conditions. The stations were more like oppressors of the
natives than caregivers. Kurtz wanted a legacy of good intentions personified
through the stations. Quote: ‘Each station should be like a beacon on the road
towards better things, a center for trade of course, but also for humanizing,
improving, instructing.’ “Avant-garde” Marlow to passengers 43 After
the steamer is attacked and the helmsman is dead, an epiphany comes to Marlow.


He may never speak to Kurtz for surely he must be dead. Through all the
descriptions of Kurtz an image is not what comes to Marlow, it is Kurtz voice.


Marlow’s first impression of Kurtz is his voice. Kurtz voice is haunting and
dominant in Marlow’s mind. The presentation of a voice by Kurtz gives him the
first control over Marlow’s inner self. Quote: ‘The man presented himself as a
voice.’ “Fanatic” Marlow to passengers 44 Marlow thinks Kurtz is
dead. He tells the passengers he would later find out he was wrong. Marlow
though he has not yet met the man, Kurtz, has his thoughts over powered by
Kurtz’s voice declaring his greed and possession of everything. Kurtz’s is so
intent on having ivory that he steals, barters, and connives to get the precious
yellow white gold. Kurtz’s voice in Marlow’s head gives him the impression of
the two-year-old mine syndrome. You have it, it’s mine. I see it, it’s mine.


It’s mine, mine, and mine. Quote: ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river,
my-‘ “Visionary” Russian to Marlow 50 Marlow has reached the inner
station where he finds the Russian, who is extremely devoted to Kurtz. It is no
accident that Marlow meets this man here because Kurtz had planned it in order
to have an audience for his final curtain. The Russian is talking about when he
and Kurtz are camping in the forest and Kurtz talks about everything to him.


Kurtz acquaints the Russian with his wisdom of life. Kurtz invokes visions of
greatness in everyone including himself. Quote: ‘He made me see things-things.’
“Survivor” Marlow to passengers 51 Marlow assumes that the Russian
had been with Kurtz since their first encounter in the encampment if the forest.


This was not so Kurtz it seems that their relationship had been interrupted by
events and Kurtz’s maddening mind. Kurtz had been in the heart of this jungle
for many months without necessary supplies and provisions. We learned this in
the beginning. Kurtz had suffered though two illnesses and was helped by the
Russian during these times. Through all the dangers that occurred to get to this
land of ivory wealth Kurtz had managed to continue going nothing seemed to stop
him. Quote: ‘He had, as he informed me proudly, managed to nurse Kurtz through
two illnesses.’ “Conniver” Marlow to passengers 51 Marlow is
speaking of the Russian and the profound influence that Kurtz has had on this
man. This was curious to Marlow because this man had the pleasure of talking to
Kurtz and Marlow had not, yet Marlow was profoundly effected internally by the
voice image of Kurtz. Quote: ‘The man filled his life, occupied his thoughts,
swayed his emotions.’ “Oppressor” Russian to Marlow 51 The Russian
is telling Marlow of the time Kurtz had wanted to shoot him for his ivory. Kurtz
had an obsession with ivory and he wanted the Russian to fear him so he
threatened him with bodily harm. Early in the novel we hear the brickmaker make
the comment he feared nothing not any man either. He was referring to Kurtz
also. The natives feared Kurtz because they say him as a god coming in with his
thunder and lighting. Quote: ‘He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him
the ivory and then cleared out of the country,’ “Conformist” Russian
to Marlow 52 The Russian said that Kurtz had suffered too much and he would beg
him to leave. Kurtz would agree to go but then would take off on another ivory
raid. Kurtz had conformed to the greed of the area and his own fanatic quest for
all the ivory and possessions to be had from this country. Kurtz had forgot his
initial reason for coming to the Congo to improve the natives. Kurtz had
conformed to the native way of life by allowing them to worship him as a god. He
had given in to the darkness of hedonism. Quote: ‘And he would say yes, and then
would remain; go off on another ivory hunt; disappear for weeks; forget himself
amongst these people-‘ “Director” Russian to Marlow 54 There are men
carrying Kurtz out on a stretcher toward the steamer and the natives become
incited to make a commotion. Something bad is going to happen if Kurtz doesn’t
take control of the situation. The natives feel Kurtz doesn’t want to leave with
Marlow and his crew because Kurtz had ordered the attack on the steamer. Kurtz’s
words will bring order back to the procession. Quote: ‘now, if he does not say
the right thing to them we are all done for.’ “Rebel” Marlow to
passengers 61 Marlow has woken up to find Kurtz has left the boat. Marlow knows
he can catch him because Kurtz is on all fours. The drumbeats and chants of
enchantment have drawn Kurtz to the surrounding encampments; they are taking
control of his darkened soul. It is rebellious of a sick man to leave the safety
of hope and crawl to evil. Kurtz’s soul is a rebel also because it has become by
far and away out of the norms of morality. Quote: ‘this alone had beguiled his
unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations.’ “Martyr”
Marlow to passengers 64 Marlow is telling of Kurtz’s final words. Upon Kurtz’s
face Marlow sees every facet of his character. The pride of the cause, the
civilizing of the natives, Kurtz came to the Congo to accomplish. The immense
control he reeled over the natives. The oppression of mankind as related with
the ‘heads on stakes’, and the total loss of his soul to the uncivilized world
of greed and domination. Kurtz made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause his
inner most light and now he shall forever live in the heart of darkness. Quote:
‘The horror! The horror!’ Theme The Heart of Darkness is more than a recantation
of a journey to the inner jungle of the Congo; it is an intrinsic journey of the
self and evil that lies dormant within all human souls. Unfortunately the evil
can be expelled and used until it envelops the whole of our being. The evil of
greed for the possession of ivory and power engulf Kurtz. He shows this with the
quote ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my-‘. When Marlow’s helmsman
dies he compares the helmsman with Kurtz in the way he was unable to fight off
the engulfing darkness of greed. The helmsman dies in an attack on the steamer
just miles away from Kurtz’s camp. The helmsman showed no restraint only terror
by opening the shutter of the pilothouse to aimlessly shooting at the darkness
of the bush. This remarkable horror tale to the inner darkness of man is
engrossed and exploited by the physical journey to the Congo. The narrator says
that most seamen have simply stories, but not Marlow. Marlow’s tales are like
the way a Russian nesting doll works, open the doll and there is another doll
inside. The meaning and the characters are in the surrounding layers of the
intended destination, Kurtz and the Congo. The quote ‘to him the meaning of an
episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale…’ shows
the point of the surrounding layers of the journey. The symbol of Marlow as
Buddha gives insight to an inner journey through meditation. The journey has the’notion of being captured by the incredible’ the utmost epiphany of the ‘essence
of dreams’. The deeper we travel into the novel and the Congo with Marlow the
closer we come to our inner evil. When Marlow looks upon Kurtz’s dying face he
sees every facet of the inner journey. The pride of the cause, the civilizing of
the natives, Kurtz came to the Congo to accomplish. The immense control Kurtz
reeled over the natives. The oppression of mankind as related with the ‘heads on
stakes’, and the total loss of Kurtz’s soul to the uncivilized world of greed
and domination. Kurtz made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause his inner most
light and now he shall forever live in the heart of darkness. Kurtz horror is
the ultimate evil the vision of the devil within his very life force. In the end
of the novel the dark shadow of Kurtz and the Congo follow Marlow to Kurtz’s
Intended, where Marlow goes against his morals and lies to her about Kurtz’s
last words. Kurtz uttered ‘the horror the horror’, but Marlow tells the Intended
it was her name that escaped in his final breath. The quote that incites this
theme is ‘The vision seemed to enter the house with me…like the beating of a
heart-the heart of conquering darkness.’ 68