Summary of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
There are three chapters in the novel Heart of Darkness: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. This is a concise synopsis of all the Heart of Darkness’ chapters.
Summary of Part 1: Horrors of Sea and Marlow’s Journey:
On the Nellie, a little ship with five men on the Thames in London was waiting for the turn of the tide. The nameless narrator, having described how sky and ocean are meeting without leaving a trace and motion of waves, delivers his companions a brief overview of the history of London, who, with him, sit on the deck with a lazy lounge. Five men include the company director (their capital), a lawyer, a billing officer, and Marlow, the leading novelist. When the sun goes down, all four men become comedians and rushing and decided to play dominoes. But their heart was darkened with the long period of separation, so they sat in silence. Marlow finally brings some adventure by starting his account of his journey in the Congo.
He begins with an unconnected hypothetical circumstance in which an ancient roman seaman arrives in Britain, encounters Horror after Horror in the strange and brutal region, and then conquers the natives. The rest of this novel is a narration of what Marlow and the others in Nellie say. Therefore, the novel of Conrad is a story or a frame tale, and most people regard this novel as a story within a story. Then the narrator brings light to Marlow’s life that how reached that place.
As a child, Marlow was passionate about knowing about the maps and longed to become a seaman or adventurer who could see the world’s farthest corners. He was born to be a seaman whose home was his mind and country was the sea. As a young man, he spotted a map of Africa and the Congo River in a shop display, sailing in the Pacific for around six years, and then returned to London. Marlow was determined to apply to a trading firm operating in the Congo, looking for a pilot to search for adventure in Africa. He begged his aunt, who knew an officer’s wife, to help him find a pilot position; she fulfilled the request.
At its headquarters in Brussels, Marcello raced over the English Channel to sign contracts. After he was sacked, Marlow was requested to sign certain documents in which he committed to disclosing no commercial secrets. Marlow spoke to the Director of the Company for less than one minute. Then, finally, Marlow reached Congo’s mouth. Marlow said to his Swedish captain on the Company and the consequences of the jungle on Europeans when he found the way to his steamboat.
The Swede narrated a brief but omnipresent story to Marlow about a man taken up by the river and hung up. Marlow’s shocking that a man used to have a job in that continent and was murdered there. Horrified, Marlow wondered why to tell him that “the sun” or “the land” may have been too much for him. Meanwhile, on his way to Africa, he saw some black men on the boat who were energetic and natural that pleased his thoughts. Finally, they arrived at the Outer Station Company on a steep slope consisting of three wooden structures. The most essential and valuable commodity of the Company was shipped from this station.
For the next ten days, Marlow waited for the caravan to lead him to the Central Station, and those ten days were enough for him to see the actual condition of Africa. Black slaves were working, and some were sick enough to die, starving, which was horrible for him.When he noticed an accountant, he pointed out that Marlow was “without doubt meet Mr. Kurtz,” an officer of Marlow’s Company responsible for a very profitable ivory station inside the Congo region.The counselor was angry with his groans and complained of distracting him and increasing his chances for clerical mistakes.
The accountant regarded Kurtz as a ‘first-class agent’ and ‘significant individual’ whose station produced more ivory than the other stations combined. He asked Marlow to tell Kurtz that everything was satisfactory at the Outer Station and that Kurtz was cared for as a top manager.
The following day, Marlow left the Outer Station with a 60 male caravan and trapped the Central Station two hundred miles away. On the journey, countless paths have been crossed by the bush and many abandoned towns. He spotted a drunk white man claiming to care for the “maintenance” of a road and the body of a native who had been shot in his head. The one white partner of Marlow was a man overweight who remained wary because of the heat. Eventually, he had to be taken in the hammock, and when his hammock was skinny, he asked Marlow to do something to punish them. Unfortunately, the native ones dropped him.
The boat was torn apart two days earlier when a “volunteer captain” steered it uprivers to be ready for Marlow’s arrival. Marlow did not do anything except continue forward till they reached the Central Station, where the ‘exciting chap.’
Therefore, Marlow was compelled to the central station to spend time. Like the Outer Station, he refers his impressions of the site to his audience at the Nellie. Marlow visited with a manufacturer of bricks who urged him to obtain information about his activities in Europe.
When Marlow admitted that he did not know anything about the Company’s covert machinations, he assumed he was lying and upset.However, at this stage, Marlow breaks his tale and explains to Nellie’s crew that the dream-like nature of his African encounters he finds challenging to communicate.
Marlow continues with his depiction of his conversation with the Brick-maker, who pleads with Marlow that he can never obtain the ingredients needed to create bricks. Marlow said his rivets were required, but none of them arrived in the caravans to fix his riverboat.
Marlow told his mechanic, after talking with the Brickmaker, their rivets would soon arrive. The mechanic, like the Brick-maker, assumed that Marlow had a strong European influence. However, the pins did not reach the Central Station; instead, a series of white guys riding donkeys exploded. Marlow learned they were called Eldorado Exploring Expedition and had come in search of treasure.
The Manager’s uncle was the Expedition’s leader, and Marlow often observed him conspire with his nephew. Sometimes Marlow would hear and be curious about Kurtz’s name, but he had a tremendous need to fix his steamship and start his job as a pilot. Therefore, he assumes that Kurtz is a man who has morals and is better than both of them.
Summary of Part 2:
Marlow eavesdropped on the Manager and his uncle discussing Kurtz one evening when he was lying on the deck. Kurtz had requested that the Company’s Administration send him into the jungle to demonstrate how much ivory he could obtain. They are unhappy because Kurtz is too good for the Company.He had returned his assistant to the Manager since he felt he was unfit for the job. Marlow also discovered that “strange rumors” regarding Kurtz’s behavior were circulating. The Manager seemed to imply that he wished Kurtz would die due to the climate condition. The Eldorado Expedition arrived in the jungle a few days later, with little news other than the death of all the donkeys. Kurtz came down to give some ivory, and when he returned, everyone wondered why he did this?
With his riverboat restored, Marlow set off towards the Inner Station with the Manager, the other agents, whom Marlow refers to as “pilgrims,” and 20 indigenous. The riverboat discovered a reed cabin some fifty miles below the Inner Station, along with the remnants of a flag and a neatly placed woodpile. Approach with caution.” Marlow discovered indications of a White occupant within the hut. The locals took the wood, and Marlow snuck the book inside the steamboat.
The steamer was attacked by unseen, quiet locals who fired small arrows about a mile and a half below the Inner Station. While the attack persisted, the pilgrims fired their weapons into the jungle, and a spear shortly killed the helmsman. The journey towards Kurz station was scary, but Marlow finally arrived at the Inner Station after two months. He first noticed a “long, deteriorating building” surrounded by several poles, each topped with a “round curved ball.” A white man met them on the coast and told Marlow that Kurtz was still living. The Harlequin then revealed that the indigenous people were attacking the steamboat of Marlow because they did not want anybody to take Kurtz away.
Summary of Part 3: Heart of Darkness
The Harlequin told Marlow that he had been listening to Kurtz many nights talking about various topics. But most of the time, Kurtz travels alone with the natives. Marlow discovered further that Kurtz was inclined to walk into the jungle on ivory with his band of indigenous followers. While listening to the Harlequin. Marlow looked through his binoculars in the neighborhood of Kurtz and found out that the round knobs he had already seen in the house’s borders were the heads of native ‘rebels.’ Suddenly, from a corner of the house, Marlow observed a group of locals appear, carrying Kurtz.
Marlow, the Harlequin, and all aboard the riverboat remained in fear of an attack until Marlow had seen Kurtz’s emaciated arm emerge and ordered his army to go. Kurtz was placed in bed, and the Manager and other agents delivered his late letter.
He left the apartment and spotted Kurtz’s Mistress of Africa, who captured Marlow with her pride, grandeur, and appearance along the side of the river. A minute without speaking, she boarded the steamer, raised her arms, and then disappeared into the bush. Marlow heard Kurtz talk ludicrously from within his room with the Manager.
The Manager tried to seem nonplussed but left the room and told Marlow, while Kurtz had collected a fantastic amount of ivory, his ivory district had to be shut down due to the unsound manner. Fearful of the Manager’s motives, Harlequin said to Marlow that he had been suspected of being wounded by the White rescuers of Kurtz. Marlow reminded the Manager of his uncle’s overheard conversation that he was right. He told Harlequin. The Harlequin then disclosed that the assault on a steamboat had been authorized since ‘he hated to be deprived of it.’
Once he arrived in Europe, the Harlequin urged Marlow to protect Kurtz’s image, asked him to take rifle ammunition and shoes, and left the Inner Station.
Shortly after midnight, Marlow woke to drumstick sounds, and the indigenous people recited songs. Marlow approached Kurtz’s room and found himself escaped after he heard a “blow of shouts.” He found Kurtz crawling along the grass and finally came close to him. At first, Kurtz advised Marlow to leave and hide, but then he started to convince Marlow that he had “immense plans,” which the Manager had destroyed. Hopeful Kurtz wouldn’t make a noise or signal his soldiers to assault, Marlow listened. Marlow finally brought Kurtz back to his room.
The following day they exited the Inner Station. Three indigenous people covered with bright red earth yelled in a sort of spell as they floated downstream; next, Kurtz’s native mistress ran along the riverbank to shouted something the rest of Kurtz’s 1,000 followers began to echo. To avert a slaughter, Marlow started blowing the whistle to terrify the native people. The white guys aboard the steamboat pointed their weapons to the coast. Many ran, but not the “crazy woman.” Finally, the Whites opened fire on the deck on the followers of Kurtz.
Kurtz continued to chat about his ideas, ambitions, stations, and careers while they were headed to the sea (and Europe). Finally, Kurtz gave Marlow a packet of documents and a picture and instructed him to keep it outside the Manager’s reach. After repairing the engine, Marlow approached Kurtz’s chamber one evening, listening to him whispering his final words: “Horror! Horror!” In a mess, Marlow refused to meet the Manager’s curious eyes. Finally, the servant boy of the Manager looked into the mess room with an outrageous voice to say, “Mistah Kurtz — he died.” The next day, in the woods, Kurtz had been buried.
Marlow, who was almost judged a suicide by Kurtz’s death, is deleted from his account the rest of his journey back to Europe.
Marlow’s aunt tried to give him healthy nursing back in Brussels. Marlow was next visited by an anonymous official who sought the papers Kurtz had provided Marlow. Marlow declined, as he did when the Manager urged him on his journey home. He eventually handed the man a copy of Kurtz’s “Extermination of Savage Customs” report but torn off with the postscript (“Exterminate the Brutes!”). Finally, Marlow met the cousin of Kurtz, who told Marlow that Kurtz was an outstanding musician, a ‘world-class genius.’
Marlow gave him a little packet of family letters. Marlow, eager for information on Kurtz, was then approached by a reporter. The reporter told Marlow while talking that Kurtz might have been a good politician for any other party since he had the charisma and voice to “elect” big conferences. Marlow gave him the “Savage Customs” report from Kurtz, and the reporter told him he was going to print it.
Marlow assumed that he had to visit Intended of Kurtz—his fiancée, whose photographer Kurtz took on the journey home to Marlow. So in her drawing-room, Marlow waited for her, clothed in sorrow, till she came in.
We realize when we meet her that she’s a lovely woman with gold hair. Although Marlow wears all black, in contrast with Kurtz’s darkness, she associates it with light. She adores Kurtz, but it becomes increasingly apparent as she talks she doesn’t know who Kurtz was. Marlow begs the woman to say to her what the last words of Kurtz were. He says that her name was Kurtz’s final words. Marlow excuses her falsehood by stating that “it was too dark” to tell her the truth. Marlow wraps stuff up on board the Nellie. The Director points out that the tide is coming, and that moves our unidentified narrator, who told us Marlow, who told us about Kurtz. He sees the “heart of a vast blackness” from the horizon. We finish on this note.
Heart of Darkness
- Introduction and plot overview of Heart of Darkness
- Personal Background of Joseph Conrad
- Summary of Heart of Darkness
- Main characters in Heart of Darkness
- Theme of imperialism in Heart of Darkness
- Character Analysis of Mr. Kurtz