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Heart of Darkness Character Analysis

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Kayla Marie

on 12 January 2015

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Transcript of Heart of Darkness Character Analysis

Character Analysis by Kayla Marie
Marlow is arrogant, cynical and obsessive. He describes himself as
"straighter than the rest of us"
(39) and believes that he is above common civilization. His condescending attitude towards humanity causes him to become cynical.
Marlow is compassionate. This is shown on in small acts such as when he tries to give a biscuit to a starving slave. Also, when he returns to Europe to speak to Kurtz's (now dead) fiancee.
The majority of the book is Marlow telling his story about his journey long the Congo river and throughout Africa. Due to his love of exploration and search of knowledge, he takes up a job at the Company as a boat captain so he can follow and meet (stalk) Kurtz. Before he can complete his journey he finds out that his ship had sunk and he had to wait for it to be fixed. When it is repaired, Marlow with a few others set out to find Kurtz and after a long trip (during which they are attacked), they do. Marlow does not have a lot of time with him before Kurtz dies. He then returns to Europe after getting very sick. His past travels through Africa were traumatic and dark.
Meet Kurtz
Kurtz is the antagonist in the story. He starts off as a normal, ambitious man but when he travels Africa his greed causes him to lose his good intentions and become a god (more like tyrant) to the natives. Kurtz is frightening, dangerous and is described as hollow by Marlow multiple times.

Despite his borderline evil deeds, Marlow later states that he is a remarkable man after witnessing Kurtz's death.

This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. . . . He had summed up—he had judged. "The horror!" He was a remarkable man.
(Marlow, 101)
Meet Marlow
Charles, or Charlie, Marlow is the Protagonist of the story.

The only physical description of Marlow given is that he has sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, and ascetic aspect (3). He is thirty two and a sailor.
Book: The Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad (Origanally Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski)

Works Cited
Conrad, Joseph. "The Text of Heart of Darkness." Heart of Darkness. Ed. Paul B. Armstrong. 4th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. 3-77. Print. Norton Critical Edition.


Marlow is philosophical. He believes in the pursuit of knowledge and the truth. Marlow is incredulous of civilization and imperialism, which are large themes in the book. He has an obsession with Africa and Mr. Kurtz that leads him on a journey up the Congo river.
Marlow is honest, hardworking and intelligent. He is persuasive and very expressive as he is telling his story. He is open minded but also slightly judgemental. Marlow is compassionate, inventive and strong.
In the future, Marlow is still a sailor but is now traveling along the Thames river in a boat a called the Nellie. The boat becomes stranded by a flood so Marlow resorts to telling the crew his story from ten years before.
"And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth."
(Marlow, 4)
"I had to wait in the station for ten days – an eternity."
(Marlow, 19)
He is impatient, which is unfortunate yet ironic seeing he is telling his story while stranded and waiting.
We looked on, waiting patiently – there was nothing else to do till the end of the flood; but it was only after a long silence, when he said, in a hesitating voice, "I suppose you fellows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a bit," that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow's inconclusive experiences.
He lies to her about Kurtz last words despite how adamant he is about not lying. He believed that there is
'a taint of death in lies'
(28) yet he deliberately does it with the belief that it will protect civilization from the true horrors of reality.
"'I heard his very last words. . . .'
'Repeat them,' she said in a heart-broken tone. 'I want something to live with...His last word—to live with...Don't you understand I loved him!'
'The last word he pronounced was—your name.' I heard a light sigh, and then my heart stood still, stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, by the cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable pain."
Marlow is described as a wanderer (5) and during his story tells the readers that ever since he was a child he loved maps. He hopes to travel and explore the world.
"America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map... I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I grow up I will go there.'…But there was one yet - the biggest, the most blank, so to speak - that I had a hankering after."
(Marlow, 9)
Marlow is selfless. This is shown when he realizes that he must live and sometimes participate in "
a place of cruel and absurd mysteries not fit for a human being
" (114) in order to protect humanity from the their own horrors.
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