Heart of Darkness Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 47 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Heart of Darkness.
This section contains 415 words
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Heart of Darkness Summary & Study Guide Description

Heart of Darkness Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Charlie Marlow is on a cruising yacht with some friends when they anchor to await the ebb tide that will take them out to sea. Marlow notes that in Roman times, London too was once seen as a dark place on the earth, and he begins to tell the story of his trip to the heart of Africa. Through connections, Marlow assumed the position of captain on a steamboat on the Congo river. He arrives in Africa, and when he treks 200 miles overland to the Central Station, he finds that his steamboat has had its bottom ripped out on a snag.

Marlow waits for months for rivets and then works for a long time fixing the boat itself. Finally, he gets under way and heads up river to find Kurtz, a superior agent who has been responsible for sending an enormous and unprecedented among of ivory out of the interior. The manager of the Central Station is afraid that there are irregularities inland, and he wants to go investigate. When Marlow and the others arrive at the Inner Station, they find that Kurtz had allowed himself to be treated as a god by the natives, and that he had imposed terrible rituals on the natives. There are several heads on stakes around the central hut where Kurtz has been staying.

When Kurtz comes to the steamboat—his health has been bad, and there is no medicine in the interior—he talks to Marlow about his station, his ivory, and his people. He has assumed so much power that he cannot stand to leave. It is only after Marlow has gotten him aboard and started back downriver that Kurtz looks at his behavior and says his ominous last words: “The Horror! The Horror!” Marlow believes that this statement reveals the full depth of Kurtz’ judgment of his experience as a person who stepped over the line into savagery.

Returning to Europe, Marlow looks after Kurtz’ things and delivers some personal papers to Kurtz’ intended wife, who believes that Kurtz was an elevated genius of a man who was going to elevate the natives, spreading civilization wherever he went. Marlow does not believe that the woman could understand the truth. So, when she wants to know what Kurtz’ last words were, he lies and tells her that Kurtz’ last words were her name. He says that it would be too dark to ruin her light,hope,faith, and love by letting her know the truth.

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This section contains 415 words
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