Part 2 Notes from Heart of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness Part 2

Waiting on the boat at Central Station, Marlow overheard the Manager speaking to the caravan leader, the manager's uncle. Marlow heard their conversation while half-asleep, so he made little sense of it at first.

Topic Tracking: Dream/Nightmare 4

He realized they were talking about Kurtz, about the influence he must hold in the Company and his unconventional ways:

"'Is he alone there?' 'Yes,' answered the manager, 'he sent his assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms: 'Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don't bother sending me more of that sort. I had rather be alone than have the kind of men you can dispose of with me.' That was more than a year ago. Can you imagine such impudence?' 'Anything since then?' asked the other hoarsely. 'Ivory,' jerked the nephew, 'lots of it--prime sort--most annoying, from him.'" Part 2, pg. 27

Marlow ascertained from the conversation that Kurtz was bizarre but effective. He heard them tell the story of how Kurtz came downriver to accompany a load of ivory, but turned back himself halfway, to return with only his paddlers to the Interior Station. Marlow gets an imaginary picture of Kurtz from this story:

"It was a distinct glimpse: the dugout, four paddling savages, and the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home--perhaps; setting his face towards the depth of the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station." Part 2, pg. 27

Topic Tracking: Isolation 4

The manager and his uncle expressed their frustration with Kurtz's obsession with civilizing the interior, having each station be a beacon of progress. The uncle noted that Kurtz had become ill and complained about the illness that was besetting his men.

Topic Tracking: Mental/Physical Illness 9

The uncle pointed disparagingly into the jungle. Marlow fantasized that the jungle was looking back, patiently awaiting the end of the invasion by such men as these.

Topic Tracking: Wilderness Imagery 5
Topic Tracking: Darkness Imagery 4

The expedition of the treasure hunters left, and first word came back that the donkeys had died, then no word came back at all. Full of anticipation about meeting Kurtz, Marlow left for the interior with the manager and the pilgrims on his boat. The navigation up the river was extremely difficult--the jungle on all sides and the varying depths of the river gave Marlow the feeling of being cut off from everything else in the world. He began to feel the jungle was personified, and looking at him with contempt.

Topic Tracking: Wilderness Imagery 6
Topic Tracking: Dream/Nightmare 5
Topic Tracking: Isolation 5

Marlow had a crew of local cannibals assisting him in the operation of the ship. The ship would occasionally stop at smaller stations along the way, and the whites there were overwhelmingly happy to see it. Soon the ship fell into disrepair; the steam pipes leaked and this slowed progress into the interior:

"The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness." Part 2, pg. 30

Topic Tracking: Wilderness Imagery 7
Topic Tracking: Darkness Imagery 5

As they went further inland, the stations were replaced by the mysterious sounds of native drums. Marlow was fascinated by the primeval lives of the people they began to see along the river. He notes how unfamiliar it was to see both nature and people in their free, uncivilized state. The idea that beneath the outer shell of civilized humanity lies this kind of unbridled, primitive passion is terrifying and exciting to him. Marlow almost regrets that the great tribally-decorated boiler operator is stuck on board the ship rather than out dancing with his fellow natives-he regrets that the boiler operator, and he, are constrained by the business of their duties to civilization.

Nearer to the station they came across a hut onshore with some stacked wood and a book full of margin notes. There was also a note left telling whoever came along to hurry but approach cautiously. Marlow wondered what he would say to Kurtz, but decided that the politics of the Company were not his business. They soon neared Kurtz's station, but delayed in order to approach in daylight--obeying the mysterious note's call for caution.

A fog came down around the ship, and in the fog a strange cry was heard. The pilgrims sat up all night with rifles, worried about attack. The cannibals who operated the ship were not as worried, though strangers to the interior--although they had become very hungry, since their provision of hippo-meat went bad and they had been paid only in brass wire, with which they were supposed to buy their own food. From whom they were to buy was unclear to Marlow; he was disappointed at the Company's shoddy treatment of the cannibals and wondered why they did not simply kill and eat the whites. Looking around, he noticed the sickly condition of his shipmates and, in a moment of feverish haziness, hoped that he did not look quite so unappetizing.

Topic Tracking: Mental/Physical Illness 10
Topic Tracking: Dream/Nightmare 6

Despite the threatening noise around the ship, Marlow was not worried about attack by natives. The cries, he believed, were not cries of violence, and Kurtz's station had to be nearby. As the fog lifted, the ship began being pelted with tiny arrows. This occurred within a narrow shoal, and Marlow realized that natives surrounded their boat. The native helmsman, instead of steering, opened the window and shot a rifle into the bush, forcing Marlow to steer--and his steering was made more difficult by the clouds of smoke from the rifles of the helmsman and the pilgrims. The helmsman was hit by a flying spear and knocked down. As one of the pilgrims rushed upstairs, the bleeding helmsman died. Marlow momentarily hoped that this would not end his voyage, as his desire to talk with Kurtz had become overwhelming. His worry was that these natives had destroyed the station and killed Kurtz. He threw the helmsman's shoes overboard, for reasons he admits he still does not understand.

As he lights a cigarette aboard the Nellie, Marlow again remarks on the impossibility of telling the story with its emotional impact intact. He remembers the whole voyage in terms of voices--the voices of Kurtz, the minor players, and even Kurtz's fiancé.

Marlow here digresses to jump ahead and discuss Kurtz and the way he spoke of his "Intended"--he mentions Kurtz's unusual appearance, with a cleanly bald head, and the way he spoke as though he possessed everything--the river, the station, and especially the ivory, the huge amounts of ivory he managed to acquire. He also mentions the way and extent to which Kurtz had been corrupted:

"Everything belonged to him--but that was a trifle. The thing to know was what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible--not good for one either--trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land--I mean literally. You can't understand--how could you?" Part 2, pg. 43

Topic Tracking: Darkness Imagery 6

Marlow says that because he and Kurtz both spoke English, Kurtz was able to confide in him.

Topic Tracking: Mental/Physical Illness 11
Topic Tracking: Imperialism/Commerce 6

Marlow here tells of an eloquent article Kurtz wrote, which spoke nobly about the power of the benevolent whites to help the natives supersede their primitive ways and accept civilization. The whole report is written in the glowing moral terms, which all the managers along the way associated with Kurtz, except for the angrily scrawled postscript at the end:

"It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes!'" Part 2, pg. 44

Marlow remarks that Kurtz entrusted him with this report and also with the preservation of his memory--Marlow keeps that memory despite his best efforts to get rid of it. He admits he really mourns the helmsman, who he partnered with in steering the ship for the months up the river, and who he threw overboard after the arrows stopped flying.

The pilgrims worried that Kurtz was killed, but believed they properly avenged him by shooting many of the natives in the bush along the shore. They realized Kurtz couldn't be dead, however, when moments later the ship came up to the shore of the intact station, where there waited an excited young man in patched clothes. The manager told this man that the ship had been attacked; the young man, who Marlow compares to a harlequin (a clown from the European theater who dressed in multicolored, patched clothes), assured him that everything was fine with Kurtz.

This young man began exuberantly expounding the learning experience he had by staying with the illustrious Kurtz--and it turned out this young man, a Russian, had been the one who had left the strange book, with its margin notes, that Marlow had found earlier. He said that the natives attacked only because they did not want anyone to take Kurtz away. Kurtz, it seemed, was regarded quite highly by everyone at the station:

"'I tell you,' he cried, 'this man has enlarged my mind.'" Part 2, pg. 48

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