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Heart of Darkness -- Plot
Transcript of Heart of Darkness -- Plot
When he meets the fiancée, Marlow becomes aware that she is still fully grieving as though "he had died only yesterday" (Part 3, pg. 160)
Marlow realizes the complete naivety of the fiancée when he notices how much she still loves Kurtz and is unaware of what he did in Africa.
While speaking about the greatness of Kurtz, Marlow ends up lying to the Intended to spare her feelings and to allow her to keep Kurtz's memory intact.
By seeing her, Marlow can finally move on from Kurtz and stop having him haunt his life. Resolution "I was within a hair's breadth of the last opportunity of pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it" (154-155).
"It is his extremity that I seem to have lived through. True, he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot. And perhaps in this is the whole difference" (155).
"I offered him the report on the 'Suppresion of Savage Customs,' with the postscriptum ripped off" (157). Frame Tale As Heart of Darkness is a frame tale, which is a story within a story, it is told from an omniscient narrator on a ship, the Nellie (66). Marlow tells his story about his adventures in Africa, while on the Nellie on the Thames in 1891.
Listeners of Marlow's story remain unnamed, but are characterized as 'the lawyer', 'the accountant', and 'the director of companies' (67). Setting "One of the Darkest Places on the Earth"
With the exception of the scene in Europe in which Marlow is seeking work, his narrative is set in Africa.
“The silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion” (91). Frame-tale by Marlow retelling his experience from when he went into Africa to his fellow sailors.
Initially, he starts out by saying that "'And this also,' said Marlow suddenly, 'has been one of the dark places of the earth.'"
Then he starts talking about the great warriors of the past before he starts on his tale.
After this, he goes into his story about his enduring trip to Africa in which he learned the true nature of mankind.
He started sailing because he always loved maps and traveling as a child.
Marlow decided to try to go to Africa and fill the void of darkness in the middle of the map. Marlow The protagonist Marlow is first described as:
"The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life" (67).
"The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical" (68).
"His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence" (68).
"...he had the appearance of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without a lotus-flower..." (69). Kurtz Kurtz is seen, not as the antagonist but perhaps as a character foil to Marlow. His background is much the same as Marlow's when he enters Africa, but their thoughts and actions differ greatly upon being influenced by Africa.
"He is an emissary of pity and science and devil knows what else."
"that scoundrel" (103)
"All of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz" (127).
"Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance in his honour, he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings" (128).
"You don't talk with that man--you listen to him" (132). Harlequin "eager fatalism"
Physical Description on page 131
“His very existence was improbable, ineplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain—why he did not instantly disappear…The glamour of youth enveloped his parti-coloured rags, his life hadn’t been worth a day’s purchase; and there he was gallantly, thoughtlessly alive” (134). Kurtz's African Mistress -- "White-tainted" Africa
“She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed clothes, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. She carried her head high; her hair was done in the shape of a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee, brass wire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on her tawny cheek, innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her neck; bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men, that hung about her, glittered and trembled at every step. She must have had the value of several elephant tusks upon her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul” (142).
Cannibals Other Characters After Kurtz's Death Before Kurtz's Death "'All right,' said I, after a time. 'Mr. Kurtz's reputation is safe with me.' I did not know how truly I spoke" (145).
"I left him to his slumbers and leaped ashore. I did not betray Mr. Kurtz--it was ordered I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. I was anxious to deal with this shadow by myself alone" (147).
"'You will be lost,' I said--'utterly lost.' [...] though indeed he could not have been more irretrievably lost than he was at this very moment, when the foundations of our intimacy were being laid--to endure--to endure--even to the end--even beyond" (148).
"I tried to break the spell--the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness--that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of the gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, [...] beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations" (149).
"His soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you it had gone mad" (149-150).
"Kurtz's life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time" (151).
The wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now--images of wealth and fame revolving obsequiously round his unextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression. My Intended, my station, my career, my ideas--these were the subjects for the occasional utterances of elevated sentiments" (152).
"One morning he gave me a packet of papers and a photograph--the lot tied together with a shoe-string. 'Keep this for me,' he said. 'This noxious fool' (meaning the manager) 'is capable of prying into my boxes when I am not looking'" (153).
He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: 'The horror! The horror!" (153-154). Part 1 -Marlow gets his chance to go to Africa when Danish Fresleven is killed.
-Marlow describes the black people rowing the boat when he arrives. “Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows…they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at”(79). Shows Marlow’s like for the black natives.
-Famished black man dies at Marlow’s feet. Marlow shows sympathy.
-Marlow first hears of Kurtz. The accountant refers to Kurtz as “a very remarkable man”(85).
Part 2 -Marlow eavesdrops on the manager and his uncle’s conversation on Kurtz.
-Finds out that Kurtz came down the river to send the ivory to the Company, but suddenly turned back after 300 miles. This puzzles other people, but Marlow admires Kurtz.He says, “As to me, I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time…I did not know the motive. Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake”(103).
-The book found in an abandoned hut helps to accentuate the situation Marlow is in by providing a touch of reality.
-Sudden rise in tension appears when the crew members are attacked by the natives.
-Marlow displays a glimpse of Kurtz’s personality through a report that he had written. Kurtz wrote, “We whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, must necessarily appear to them in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might as of a deity…By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded”(127).
Part 3 When Marlow enters Kurtz’s compound, he discovers the skulls of dead Africans mounted on pikes. “I want you clearly to understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him—some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence”(138).
-Finally, Marlow meets Kurtz. From this point to the oncoming of Kurtz’s death is the highest time of emotional tension which will lead to the climax.