Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Summary | Novel

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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Summary | Novel
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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Summary | Novel


Heart of Darkness Summary


ABOUT THE NOVEL

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

This novel "Heart of Darkness" was written by Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad in 1899. The story of this novel is narrator by a thoughtful sailor named Marlow. Here, he shares his journey up the Congo River in Africa. The next character of the story is Kurtz. He is a trader of ivory transportation. He gets deeply affected by the darkness as well as harshness of the colonial efforts.

The novel has presented various themes such as imperialism, racism, and the dark side of human nature. It looks into the moral problems caused by too much power and how European colonialism affected Africa. 


FULL BOOK SUMMARY

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The novel "Heart of Darkness" is about a thoughtful sailor named Marlow. He is the main protagonist of the novel. This novel presents Marlow's trip up to the River of Congo especially to meet the character named Kurtz, who is known as an idealistic and skilled man. Marlow becomes a captain of the riverboat for the Company. This Company is a Belgian group, that is set up for trade in the Congo. While on his journey towards Africa and up the Congo, Marlow encounters a lot of inefficiency and cruelty in the stations of the Company.

The people who are the native inhabitants of the region are made to work for the Company. They have to endure a lot of hardships and mistreatment from the Company's agents. The cruel and dirty nature of the imperial business is quite different from the calm and impressive jungle that surrounds the settlements of the white men, making them seem to be small islands in a vast dark space.

Marlow gets to the Central Station. The particular station is led by the general manager, who is a suspicious and secretive character. Marlow discovers that his steamship is damaged and it takes many months waiting for parts to repair it. During this period, Marlow becomes more curious about a person called Kurtz. The manager and his favourite, the brickmaker, seem fearful of Kurtz. They think that he could challenge their authority. There are rumours that Kurtz is sick, making the delays in ship repairs all the more costly.

Finally, Marlow gets the parts he needs to repair his ship. He, the manager, some strange agents (Marlow calls them pilgrims because they always carry long sticks wherever they go), and a crew of cannibals start their difficult journey up the river. The dense jungle and the oppressive silence make everyone a bit nervous. Seeing a native village or hearing the sound of drums gets the pilgrims all worked up.

Later, Marlow and his crew find a hut with stacked firewood. There is also a note saying that wood is for them, but they need to be careful. Shortly, after putting the firewood on the steamer, a thick fog surrounds the ship. When the fog clears, the ship is attacked by hidden natives. They start shooting arrows from the safety of the forest.

The African helmsman is killed just before Marlow tries to scare away the natives with the ship's steam whistle. Shortly after that, Marlow and his companions reach Kurtz's Inner Station. They think that they'll find him dead. However, a somewhat crazy Russian trader greets them as they come ashore. He informs them everything is okay there. He also says that he's the one who left the wood. The Russian believes that Kurtz has expanded his mind and shouldn't be judged morally like normal people.

It seems Kurtz has made himself a god with the local people. He has been doing brutal raids in nearby areas in search of ivory. His fence posts around the station have been adorned with severed heads. This shows his methods or how he does things. The pilgrims carry Kurtz out of the station on a stretcher. Meanwhile, a bunch of native warriors come out of the forest. They circle them. Kurtz talks to them, and the natives go back into the woods and disappear. 

The manager brings Kurtz onto the ship. Kurtz seems to be very sick. A lovely native woman stands on the shore and stares out at the ship. She seems to be Kurtz's mistress. The Russian suggests that she's somehow connected to Kurtz. She has caused problems before by influencing Kurtz. The Russian tells Marlow, after swearing him to secrecy, that Kurtz had planned the attack on the ship to make them think he was dead. He had a hope that they'd turn back and leave him to his own further schemes.

The Russian moves away in a canoe. They were scared of the displeasure of the manager. Kurtz disappears at nighttime. Marlow moves on to look for him. When he discovers Kurtz crawling toward the native camp, he stops him. He persuades him to return to the ship. Both of them start sailing down the river the next morning. But meanwhile, Kurtz is getting sicker quickly.

Marlow is steering the ship as well as paying attention to Kurtz's talks. A bit later, Kurtz hands Marlow a package of his papers. In his documents, there is a persuasive document about civilizing the savages. It finishes with a handwritten message saying, "Exterminate all the brutes!". Their ship gets problems, and they stop to repair it. In the meantime, Kurtz passes away, uttering his final words - "The horror! The horror!". Marlow feels somewhat puzzled after hearing those words.

Soon after the death of Kurtz, Marlow starts getting sick and barely survives. Finally, he returns to Europe and moves to meet Kurtz's fiancรฉe. Even though it's been over a year since Kurtz died, she's still grieving and praises him as an ideal of goodness and success. She asks about the final words from Kurtz, but Marlow can't bear to tell her the bitter reality. Instead, he says Kurtz's final word was her name.


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