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Marlow's Journey in Heart of Darkness
Transcript of Marlow's Journey in Heart of Darkness
Seaman Charles Marlow begins
his journey in the shipping capital
of the world, London, England.
After seeing a map of Africa in a shop window,
he is compelled to visit this new undiscovered
land, but first he requires passage.
Marlow leaves Mother England via the
Thames River, before crossing the English
Channel into Belgium.
While in Belgium, Marlow contacts his aunt, who has friends and connections within the infamous
The Company hires Marlow as a ship captain,
after the previous captain was killed by natives while returning to his camp.
Before departing for the Congo (a Belgian colony where the Company operates), Marlow comes under the realization that his journey will take him straight to the center of the earth.
While traveling along the coast
of Africa, Marlow passes by a French
Naval ship bombarding what seems to be an uninhabited coastline.
After finally arriving on the Congo coast, Marlow is shocked to find the Company's outer station in complete disrepair. Decaying machinery litters a landscape cluttered by dying men and enslaved African workers.
After traveling by land over 200 miles,
Marlow finally arrives at the Central Station
of the Company. Marlow learns from the general manager of the station that the steamer he was originally to command has been damaged and nearly sunk.
Marlow is escorted cross country by a Company
caravan tasked with leading him to the Central Station. It is on this death march (African laborers begin to drop like flies) that Marlow first learns of Mr. Kurtz, a well-respected company man responsible for bringing in the majority of the region's ivory exports.
Marlow spends three months repairing the damaged ship, speculating that it was intentionally
beached in order to delay his journey to Kurtz at the inner station (who is now rumored to be ill).
"The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it."
Upon finally completing the repairs, Marlow embarks upstream along with some fellow white 'pilgrims' (as he refers to them) and a crew of inexperienced natives. During his final day at the central station, Marlow learns via a bricklayer that Kurtz is truly an extraordinary man; one who is in good favor with the Company's superiors for his exceptional ivory intake as well as for his prodigal like atmosphere to influence those around him to his power.
Marlow, who is recounting this tale to his shipmates, makes a brief interlude to discuss Kurtz. He makes note of how Kurtz took everything under his own possession. For example Kurtz saw his fiancee as 'my intended', the Congo River as 'my river' his profits as 'my ivory', and the inner station as 'my station'.
Around 8 miles from Kurtz's inner station, Marlow is forced to bring the ship to a halt in dense fog. One of the pilgrims fears an impending attack from hidden natives on the shore, but there is no safe escape Marlow can make without risking beaching the already dying steamship.
Suddenly, the ship is bombarded by arrows. Not ordinary arrows, but harmless twigs that act to scare and intimidate the ship. Reacting rashly, the pilgrims open fire with their Winchester repeaters on the shoreline, hoping to beat back the faux attack. Marlow's self-appointed first mate, an African native, takes a spear to the stomach and falls dead in a pool of blood beside his captain.
The following scene in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", a modern retelling of "Heart of Darkness" that transitions from the Belgian colonial interest in the Congo to American foreign interest in the Vietnam War, recreates the scene very effectively.
Following this interlude, Marlow returns to his story. Approaching Kurt'z station and fearing the worst of his current state (death from either illness or native attacks), Marlow encounters a fellow European, a Russian.
Upon discussing Kurtz's fate with this Russian outside the Inner Station, Marlow learns that the attack was staged by natives who feared that the ship had come upriver in an attempt to take Kurtz away from them, which is true. With the knowledge of Kurtz's well-being, the pilgrims travel into the camp to bring back Kurtz while Marlow continues to talk with the Russian. After the Russian fawns over his glorious leader, Marlow beigns to realize just how powerful this Kurtz really is, able to bend those around them to his will.
This realization is confirmed when, as Kurtz is carried via stretcher towards the steamer by the pilgrims, hordes of African natives flock to the shores in order to gaze at their god among men once more before he departs forever. Marlow is forced to scare them off with a blast of the ship's horn.
Later that night, Marlow awakes to find Kurtz absent from the ship. He travels ashore stealthily to find Kurtz crawling back towards his camp, attempting to flee his would-be rescuers. Marlow escorts him back aboard the ship, putting him in the cabin house in order to prevent future escape attempts.
On the return journey downriver,
it becomes evident that Kurtz will not survive.
As Marlow comes down with the same fever that claimed Kurtz, he vaguely recounts his comrades burying a body along the river.
"The horror-the horror..."
Barely surviving his crippling illness, Marlow returns to Brussels in order to deliver some important documents that Kurtz entrusted him with upon his deathbed.
Some of the documents go to the Company for record keeping, others to a cousin of Kurtz to be published at some point in the future.
As one last stop, Marlow visits Kurtz's "Intended", his fiancee. He delivers the last remaining earthly ties to the once great man that this woman knew and loved. She did not see his descent into darkness, his consumption by the corruptible natures of the heart of darkness present deep in the jungles of the Congo.
When she asks our narrator what her beloved's final words were, Marlow responds that they were her own name. He is unable to destroy the image of Kurtz in the woman's mind by revealing the monster that he had become.