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Heart Of Darkness

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Characters

1. The protagonist of Heart of Darkness is a person named Charlie Marlow. Oddly, his name only appears once in the novel. Marlow is philosophical, independent-minded, and generally skeptical of those around him. He is also a master storyteller, eloquent and able to draw his listeners into his tale. Although Marlow shares many of his fellow Europeans' prejudices, he has seen enough of the world and enough debased white men to make him skeptical of imperialism. An example of Marlow being independent-minded and philosophical is when he takes a trip up a river, as a break from working on ships. Marlow describes the trip as a journey back in time, to a "prehistoric earth." This remark on how he regards colonized people as primitive, which is his philosophical viewpoint.

2. Of all the characters in the book, the only one with somewhat of a negative connotation is the character of the general manager (of the Company (the boating company)). He is the chief agent of the Company in its African territory, who runs the Central Station. He owes his success to a robust constitution that allows him to outlive all of his competitors. He is average in appearance and unremarkable in abilities, but he possesses a strange capacity to produce uneasiness in those around him, keeping everyone sufficiently alert (against their will) for him to exert his control over them. An example of the manager producing uneasiness in others is when he learns of Kurtz's sick condition, he actually gets happy, because now he can have more control of the group as an individual. Kurtz was the unofficial leader, and soon, the manager could "move in."

3. Kurtz, who is not the protagonist or antagonist is a very significant character in the book as Marlow and Kurtz essentially form a team as the novel progresses. He is the chief of the Inner Station and Marlow basically follows him. Kurtz is a man of many talents (he is a talented musician and painter). His abilities are nothing without his charisma and his ability to lead. Kurtz is a man who understands the power of words, and his writings present a complexity that obscures their horrifying message (his writings are often hard to understand, as they are complex in structure, often hiding the morbid message behind them). Although he remains a "puzzle," even to Marlow, Kurtz puts forth a powerful influence on the people in his life. His downfall is a result of his willingness to ignore the rules that govern European culture: Kurtz has "kicked himself loose of the earth" by associating too much with the natives. Kurtz demonstrates his ability to lead when he meets Marlow. Right away, it is evident that Marlow will be a follower of Kurtz, and that Kurtz will be the more dominant one. Kurtz is always the one that pilots the boat, while Marlow watches.

The brick maker at the central station is fairly significant and also humorous in a way. He is a favorite of the manager and seems to be a kind of spy. He never actually produces any bricks, as he is supposedly waiting for some essential material that never actually arrives. He is petty and devious and assumes that other people are too. His deviousness is exemplified directly by him being a spy.

4. Marlow encounters a few problems. One being that, while in search of firewood, the crew of the Nellie find some near a seemingly abandoned hut, but upon taking it, are ambushed by natives with bows and arrows. No one is hurt, except the African helmsman, who is killed. Marlow frightens the natives away with the ship's steam whistle. Not long after, Marlow and his companions arrive at Kurtz's Inner Station, expecting to find him dead, but a Russian trader, who meets them as they come ashore, assures them that everything is fine and informs them that he is the one who left the wood. The main problem, though, (is actually a collection of occurrences that happen around the same time), the most prevalent being the death of his Kurtz. Kurtz becomes ill at some point, and the illness is eating away at his health quickly. Marlow listens to Kurtz talk while he pilots the ship, and Kurtz entrusts Marlow with a packet of personal documents, including a powerful-looking pamphlet on civilizing the savages which ends with a scrawled message that says, "Exterminate all the brutes!" The steamer breaks down, and they have to stop for repairs (this is a reflection of Joseph Conrad's work in France when he repaired ships as a sailor). Kurtz dies; his last words were "The horror! The horror!" Marlow does not know what this all means. Marlow gets sick soon after Kurtz dies and barely survives. Eventually he returns to Europe and goes to see Kurtz's fiancйe, who is still mourning (after a year). Marlow tells her that Kurtz's last words were her name.

5. Marlow and Kurtz are similar in a few ways. Both Marlow and Kurtz are philosophical and skeptical. They are also both independent (which goes along with being skeptical). They can both persuade people through words (Kurtz, in particular). Both of them are prejudice, but Marlow is skeptical of imperialism.

6. The general manager can strangely but logically be compared to Adolph Hitler. The manager is very successful due to somewhat of a monopoly. He has remarkable abilities, but can make people around him feel uneasy. He can keep everyone around him uneasy about his control over him or her.

Setting

7. The novel takes place in the early 1900s (in the time frame of 1900-1905), in Europe. Most of the novel takes place on or near the sea, and in ports, docks, and harbors.

8. The setting of European seas in the 1900s is very different from my own environment, looking at the facts that my environment is not in Europe, is not on the sea or in boats or ships, and the novel's setting takes place a century before my time. On the other hand, upon comparing my environment with that of the novel, it is evident that there is a body of water somewhat near me, and some people in the same area unquestionably go boating, maybe in sailboats, etc. It is not as specialized as the boating in the novel, however, where they have large yawls to go about in.

9. Given the choice to live in the 1900s in Europe close to the sea, I would rather not live there because going back in time means reversing all of the accomplishments humans have made in medicine and technology, etc., and I would rather advance the accomplishments/inventions that allow me to make my life easier.

Plot

10. The opening scene in the novel was very calm, taking place after a flood, which apparently did not cause much damage, as the Nellie, the ship used throughout the book, is still

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