Heart of Darkness Part 3
Marlow was bewildered by the seemingly impossible existence of the adventuresome young man, who had sought out Kurtz on his own and with great excitement. He envied the young Russian's liveliness, but not his single-minded devotion to Kurtz. The Russian went on about his talks with Kurtz and the wisdom he had gained, and noted that he nursed Kurtz through two illnesses.
The clownish young man told Marlow that Kurtz tended to wander off into the forest alone, raiding nearby villages for ivory and gaining the loyalty of the natives. He also noted that Kurtz had once threatened to shoot him for some ivory--although this did not diminish his loyalty:
"'He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country, because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased.'" Part 3, pg. 50
The young man was offended by Marlow's suggestion that Kurtz was mad. He told Marlow that Kurtz had come back recently with the soldiers of a downriver tribe with him, the same natives who attacked the ship. Marlow comments that Kurtz's pursuit of ivory overcame his moral goals.
Marlow looked through his binoculars at the main house of the Interior Station and noticed that the decorative posts in front of the main house are really heads on stakes. Marlow tells his listeners that he is not disclosing trade secrets--in fact, the heads on stakes performed no commercial function at all. Instead, they represented the way Kurtz's power and isolation were able to corrupt him:
"...Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts [...] there was something wanting in him--some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this deficiency himself I can't say. I think the knowledge came to him at last--only at the very last. But the wilderness found him out early, and had taken vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude--and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core..." Part 3, pg. 51
The young man told Marlow that the heads were heads of "rebels". Marlow associated this strange definition with that of the "enemies" of the French ship and the "criminals" and "workers" who were really slaves at the coast. The young man got increasingly offended at Marlow's opinion of Kurtz and broke down, decrying how everyone from the outside abandoned the great man in his state of illness. At that, some natives approached carrying a crude stretcher; on the stretcher was Kurtz himself, and natives poured out from all around to admire him.
Marlow could not hear what Kurtz was saying but hoped it would spare their lives. The sick Kurtz was lowered from his stretcher and taken by the Manager and the pilgrims, who carried him aboard the ship.
From the ship, the whites saw a beautiful native woman decked in gold jewelry. Kurtz was furious at being taken aboard the ship--he insisted that they were interfering with great plans of his which they could not understand. He insisted too that he was not sick. The manager took Marlow aside and told him the district had to be abandoned--despite the great quantities of ivory, the methods were too unsound. Marlow agreed, but also admitted that he thought Kurtz a remarkable man. The darkness and wilderness were overwhelming:
"I turned to the wilderness really, not to Mr. Kurtz, who, I was ready to admit, was as good as buried. And for a moment it seemed to me as if I also was buried in a vast grave full of unspeakable secrets. I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption, the darkness of an impenetrable night..." Part 3, pg. 55
The Russian made Marlow promise to protect Kurtz's reputation. He told Marlow that Kurtz himself had ordered the attack. With that, the young man vanished, leaving Marlow to wonder whether he had really even seen him.
All night the native drummers kept vigil for Kurtz outside the ship. Marlow woke up to hear their eerie drumming and chanting coming out of the woods.
He looked for Kurtz but couldn't find him. He went ashore, being sure not to awaken any of the pilgrims.
"I did not betray Mr. Kurtz--it was ordered I should never betray him--it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. I was anxious to deal with this shadow by myself alone--and to this day I don't know why I was so jealous of sharing with anyone the peculiar blackness of that experience." Part 3, pg. 57
Marlow noticed that some of the cannibals were standing guard around the all-important pile of ivory. He followed a trail that he thought must be Kurtz's. As he walked along the trail, he remembered brief and seemingly irrelevant images from his journey--the knitting women, the pilgrims shooting rifles into the bush. He pictured himself never going back to the ship, staying alone in the woods forever.
Marlow tracked Kurtz and soon caught up to him. Kurtz attempted to warn Marlow away from the intense and bizarre ceremony going on. A nearby native stood by a fire, wearing horns, and Marlow was struck with the danger of the situation. He asked Kurtz if he knew what he was doing. Kurtz replied that he did. Marlow was not sure whether to save him or kill him:
"I tried to break the spell--the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness--that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, had driven him out to the edge of the forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations." Part 3, pg. 59
Marlow was full of fear, and as he tells his story, he has trouble getting across to his listeners on the Nellie why he was afraid--it was not of the natives but of the forces he was dealing with. He can report to them the words the two exchanged, but they would do no good:
"They had behind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares." Part 3, pg. 59
Marlow says that in that moment he realized Kurtz had been alone in the wilderness, his soul had been alone with itself, and that this was what had driven him mad. Marlow realized that he too had to look into that soul.
Kurtz collapsed into his arms, and Marlow carried him back on to the ship. The next day the ship left the station with Kurtz, and the natives looked on forbiddingly from the banks. Some of them were performing rituals--chanting, wearing red earth, and shaking feathers. Marlow asked Kurtz if he understood the rituals. He then noticed the pilgrims going for their rifles, as though to shoot the natives around the ship for sport. He quickly sounded the horn to warn them away. All of them fled, except for the native woman who appeared earlier when they first brought Kurtz on the ship.
As the ship went downstream, the pilgrims and the Manager looked on Marlow with suspicion, as though he was now allied with Kurtz. Kurtz would talk eloquently at length to Marlow, discussing his lofty motives, his great success, the fiancé he would be returning to--and cursed at the wilderness outside.
When the ship was delayed for repairs, Kurtz entrusted Marlow with some letters and papers, imploring him to keep them from the manager. One of these was the article. Marlow found it difficult to see into Kurtz's mind.
Although he wished to keep vigil over Kurtz, Marlow was also occupied with making sure the boat was operating correctly. When Kurtz announced that he would die soon, Marlow, bringing a candle into his dark room, did not believe him. A strange expression crossed Kurtz's face, as though he were reliving the extremes of pride, power, fear, and despair that had been his life in the interior. He spoke his final words with only Marlow there to hear: "'The horror! The horror!'" Part 3, pg. 62
Marlow blew out the candle and left the room. He sat down at the table with the pilgrims and the manager; the manager's servant went into the cabin, then came out to announce that Kurtz was dead. The pilgrims rushed in to see.
Marlow had nothing more to do with it; the pilgrims buried Kurtz nearby. They nearly buried him as well, Marlow says. Through Kurtz he was forced to look at death, for in the last moments of his life, Kurtz was able to say something true about the whole mess of human life--"The horror! The horror!" Marlow was able to look into the darkness that Kurtz had gotten lost in, and learn from that darkness--whether to his benefit or his detriment he is unsure.
After he emerged from the jungle, Marlow ended up back in the white city from which he departed. The people of the city were only a distraction from his thoughts.
Having journeyed to the heart of Kurtz's darkness, Marlow subsequently found those living in the city stupid-he could hardly keep from laughing at their empty self-importance. He refused to give Kurtz's papers over to the Company. He found out that Kurtz's mother had died under the watch of his fiancé; he also found out details about Kurtz's past--he was a musician, for instance, and his friends wished he would go into politics. Marlow eventually gave the Company the article--with the postscript torn off. He also finally decided to go to the fiancé's house to leave the letters with her, and hopefully leave behind the memory. He felt Kurtz enter, ghostlike, into the fiancé's house, with him.
Marlow saw, as he walked through the door of the Intended's house, the natives dancing around fires, and he heard Kurtz's voice discussing the ivory and saying his last words. Into these memories the fiancé emerged, dressed in black for mourning.
The Intended asked if Marlow knew Kurtz; he replied that he knew him as well as it is possible for one man to know another. The room grew darker and darker as the woman talked about Kurtz, about how well she knew him, and about his great voice. She mourned that no one would ever see him again. Marlow had his own reasons to doubt this, but stayed silent. He thinks:
"Never see him! I saw him clearly then. I shall see this eloquent phantom as long as I live, and I shall see her too, a tragic and familiar shade, resembling in this gesture another one, tragic also, and bedecked with powerless charms, stretching bare brown arms over the glitter of the infernal stream, the stream of darkness." Part 3, pg. 68
Marlow admitted to Kurtz's fiancé that he had heard Kurtz's last words, but he could not admit the exact words to her. As Marlow stood before the Intended, he heard, "The horror! The horror!" all around him, but said, at last, that Kurtz's final words were the fiancé's own name. He could not, in the end, tell her the truth that Kurtz had revealed to him, because the truth was too terrible.
At this point, Marlow stops telling his story. The narrator looks off into the falling night.
"I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness." Part 3, pg. 69