Heart of Darkness Major Characters
Marlow: The story of Kurtz is told by Marlow, who speaks for the majority of the novel. He is a longtime seaman, a rootless wanderer and frequent storyteller. The stories he tells, though, tend to be more idea than episode. He was the captain of a small steamer that traveled up the Congo River to retrieve the mysterious Kurtz from the interior. His encounter with Kurtz shakes him for the rest of his life.
Kurtz: A trade agent sent to Africa by the Company, he started out with the noble goal of bringing civilization and progress to the natives. Eloquent and charismatic, he had great favor in the Company and his virtue was praised, to the dismay of his jealous colleagues. No sooner had he arrived than the isolation torn away his civilized exterior and made his inner savageness emerge. He began to act as a god to the area natives. He decayed mentally and physically and ultimately died aware of the horror of his life.
The pilgrims: A group of sixteen to twenty men who Marlow brought on his trip into the interior. He barely talked with any of them; they fired rifles into crowds of natives onshore and were very suspicious of Kurtz. When Kurtz died, they buried him in the mud by the riverside.
The cannibals: The natives who acted as the crew on Marlow's ship to the interior. He became much closer to them than he did to the other white men. They received a meager pay of brass wire, which they were supposed to (but unable to) trade for food; as a result they were always hungry. They were generally distrusted or disregarded by the pilgrims.
The fiancé: Kurtz's fiancé back in Europe, who Marlow visited after his return from Africa. He told her the story of Kurtz's death but lied to her about Kurtz's last words. She was utterly devoted to Kurtz and believed strongly in his noble motives.
The young man: A Russian wanderer who ended up at Kurtz's station. Worshipful and fearful of Kurtz, he was most concerned with attempting to win Marlow over to Kurtz's side. He ran off before Kurtz was taken from the station, leaving Marlow with Kurtz's papers and an admonition to protect his memory.
The Director of Companies, the Lawyer, and the Accountant: The three men who listen, along with the narrator, to Marlow's story. They are solid professional men who occasionally show skepticism about the story.
General Manager: A higher official with the Company, he went with Marlow into the interior in order to retrieve Kurtz. He was jealous of Kurtz's popularity with the Company in Europe and feared being usurped. He was incompetent and not very bright, but ambitious enough to stay in Africa.
Treasure hunters: A caravan of greedy men who stopped at the Central Station on their way to the interior. Their goal was to raid natives for gold, ivory or other treasure. Marlow found them distasteful and cruel. They disappear, presumably dead, into the jungle.
Native woman: A tall and beautiful woman who appeared strangely and menacingly when the white men took Kurtz aboard the ship. She also stared after them as they departed with Kurtz, unafraid of the noise of the ship's horn.