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Heart Of Darkness - Summary

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Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is based on Conrad's firsthand experience of the Congo region of West Africa. Conrad was actually sent up the Congo River to an inner station to rescue a company agent who died a few days later aboard ship. The story is told by a seaman named Charlie Marlow and is rearranged through the thoughts of an unidentified listening narrator. This story, on level, is simply about a voyage into the heart of the Congo. On another level, it is about the journey into the soul of mankind.

On a boat anchored in the Thames River outside London, a sailor named Marlow remarks to his friends that the land they're standing on was once a place of darkness and an uncivilized wilderness. This contemplation leads him to remember an incident in his past when he commanded a steamboat on the Congo River. When retelling his story, Marlow is a young man anxious to see the unexplored African jungles. An influential aunt in obtains an position as captain of a Congo steamer for Marlow. But when he arrives at the Company's Outer Station in Africa, he's faced with a horrible display of black slavery and white greed and hostility.

In a shady grove he discovers a crew of sickly African workers that have crawled away to die. He also meets the Company's chief accountant, who mentions a man named Kurtz who is a remarkable agent that has sent more ivory from the jungle than the other agents combined. Marlow's interest is perked in Kurtz and will eventually grow into an unhealthy obsession and become the focus of the story. After a difficult journey, Marlow

arrives at the Company's Central Station where he learns that the steamer he was supposed to command has been destroyed in a wreck. He meets the local manager, who mentions Kurtz and says that Kurtz is assumed to be ill at his station up the river and that it's necessary to get to him as quickly as humanly possible.

One night Marlow talks with one of the agents at the station, who speaks of Kurtz with great esteem and admiration but also with resentment at the talents that make him a likely candidate for a job promotion. He says that Kurtz is one of those types of men that have come to Africa not only to gain wealth, but with the notion of spreading enlightenment to the uneducated people. On another occasion, while napping on the deck of his vessel, Marlow overhears a conversation between the manager and his uncle. It become obvious to Marlow through eavesdropping that the manager has a passionate dislike for Kurtz; this is partly because of his ideals, and partly because of his capabilities and possible job promotion. After three long months of repairs, Marlow and a small crew of white people and about thirty Africans begin to journey up the river towards Kurtz's station through a jungle setting that strikes Marlow as apprehensions, peculiar and enormous. About fifty miles before Kurtz's station, they come across a reed hut with wood stacked for the steamboat's fuel and a message that they should proceed with caution.

A couple of mornings later they are awaken to find themselves surrounded by a thick fog through which they hear a commotion of threatening voices. Once the fog lifts, they quickly set sail again and then find themselves assaulted by a thick shower of

arrows. The white guys on the boat fire back into the brush with a haze of hysteria and Marlow steers the steamboat close to the shore to avoid difficulty and his African helmsman is killed by a spear being thrust between his ribs. Marlow tosses the dead helmsman overboard into the river in order to keep the cannibals on board to be tempted to eat him. He blows the steam boat's whistle and the sound of the screech, the aggressors run in horror from the noise.

Soon the Marlow and his crew arrive at the Inner Station, where they are greeted excitedly by a Russian sailor who has been nursing Kurtz through his illness. They then discover that it was the Russian that left the pile of



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