Aboard the Nellie, anchored in the river Thames near gravesend, England, charles Marlow tells his fellow sailors about the events that led to his appointment as captain of a river steamboat for an ivory trading company. As a child, Marlow had been fascinated by the blank spaces on maps, particularly by the biggest, which by the time he had grown up was no longer blank but turned into a place of darkness. Yet there remained a big river, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, which its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country and its tail lost in the depths of the land .
The image of this river on the map fascinated Marlow as a snake would a bird . Feeling as though instead of going to the centre of a continent I were about to set off for the centre of earth , Marlow takes passage on a French steamer bound for the African coast and then into the interior. After more than thirty days the ship anchors off the seat of the government near the mouth of the big river. Marlow, with still some two hundred miles to go, now takes passage on a little sea going steamer captained by a Swede. He departs some thirty miles up the river where his companys station is. Work on the railway is going on, involving removal of rocks with explosives. Marlow enters a narrow ravine to stroll in the shade under the trees, and finds himself in the gloomy circle of some inferno the place is full of diseases Africans who worked on the railroad and now await their deaths, their sickened bodies already as thin as air Marlow witnesses the scene horror struck . Marlow has to wait for ten days in the companys outer station, where he sleeps in a hut.
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At this station which strikes Marlow as a scene of impeccably dressed chief accountant who tells him of a Mr. Kurtz, who is in charge of a very important trading post, and a widely respected, first class agent, a very remarkable person who sends in as much ivory as all the other put together . He will be a somebody in the administration before long. They, about the council in Europe, you know mean him to be . Marlow depends with a caravan of sixty men to travel on foot some two hundred miles into the wilderness to the centre station where the steamboat that he is to captain is based. On the fifteenth day of his March, he arrives at the station, which has some twenty employees, and is shocked to learn from a fellow European that his steamboat had been wrecked in a mysterious accident two days earlier. He meets the general manager, who informs him that he could wait no longer for Marlow to arrive because the up-river station had to be relieved, and rumours had one important station in jeopardy because its chief, the exceptional Mr.
Kurtz, was ill. Hang kurtz, Marlow thinks, irritated. He fishes his boat out of the river and is occupied with boat out of the river and is occupied with its repair for some months during which a sudden fire destroys a grass shed full of materials used to trade with the natives. While one of the navies is tortured for allegedly causing the fire, Marlow is invited in the room of the stations brick maker, a man who spent a year waiting for material to make bricks. Marlow gets the impression the man wants to pumps him, and is curious to know what kind of information he is after. Hanging on the wall is a small sketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman draped and blindfolded carrying a lighted torch . Marlow is fascinated with the sinister effect of the informed that Mr. Kurtz made the painting in the station a year ago.
The brick marker calls Kurtz a prodigy and an emissary of pity, and science, and progress , and feels Kurtz represents the higher intelligence, wide sympathies, a singleness of purpose needed for the cause Europe entrusts the company with. The man predicts Kurtz will rise in the hierarchy within two years and then makes the connection to Marlow the same people who sent him specially also recommended you . Marlow is frustrated by the months it takes to perform the necessary repairs made all the slower the necessary repairs, made all the slower by the lack of proper tools and replacement parts at the station.
During this time, he learns that Kurtz is far from admired, but more or less resented. Once underway the journey up-river to Kurtzs station takes two months to the day. The steamboat stops briefly near an abandoned hut on the riverbank, where Marlow finds a pile of wood and a note indicating that the wood is for them and that they should proceed quickly but with caution as they near the inner station. The journey pauses for the night about eight miles below the inner station. In the morning the crew awakens to find that the boat is enveloped by a thick white fog. From the river bank they hear a very loud cry, followed by a discordant clamour. A few hours later as safe navigation becomes increasingly difficult, the steamboat is attacked with barrage of small arrow from the forest.
The helmsman is impaled by a spear and falls at Marlows feet. Marlow sounds the steam whistle repeatedly, frightening the attackers and causing the shower of arrows to cease. Marlow and a pilgrim watch the helmsman die. In a flash forward Marlow notes that the international society for the suppression of savage customes had commissioned kurtz to write a report, which he did eloquently. A handwritten postscript, apparently added later by kurtz, reads exterminate all the brutes.
At kurtz s station Marlow sees a man on the river bank waving his arm, urging tgem to land. The pilgrim, heavily armed, escort the manager on to the shore to retrieve Mr. Kurtz. The man from the bank boards the steamboat, and turns out to be a Russian wandered who had happened to stray into Kurtz camp. He explains that he had left the wood and the note at the abandoned hut. Though conversation Marlow discovers just hoe wanton kurtz can be how the native worship himand how very ill he has been of late. The Russian admired Kurtz for his intellect and his insights into love, life, and justice, and suggests that he is a poet. He tells of how Kurtz opened his mind, and seems to admire him even for his power and for his willingness to use it.
Marlow, on the other hand, suggests that kurtz has gone mad. From the steamboat, Marlow observes the station in detail and is surprised to see near the station house a row of posts topped with the severed heads of natives. Around the corner of the house the manager appears with the pilgrim, bearing a gaunt and ghost like kurtz on an improvised stretched. The areas, but kurtz should sometimes from the stretcher, and the natives retreat into the forest. The pilgrims carry Kurtz to the steamer and lay him in one of the cabins, where he and the manager have a private conversation. Marlow watches a beautiful native woman walk in measured steps along the shore and stop next to the steamer.
When the manager exists the cabin he pulls Marlow aside and tells him that kurtz has harmed the companys business in the region, that his method are unsound. Later, the Russian reveals that kurtz believes the company wants to remove him from the station and kill him and Marlow confirms that hangings had been discussed. After midnight, Marlow discovered that kurtz has left his cabin on the steamer and returned to shore. He goes ashore and finds a very weak kurtz crawling his way Back to the station house, though not too weak to call ti the native for help. Marlow threatens to harm Kurtz of he raises an alarm, but kurtz only laments that he had not accomplished more in the region. The next day they prepare for their journey back down the river. The native, including the ornately dressed women once again assemble on shore and begin to shout unintelligibly. Noticing the pilgrim readying their rifles Marlow sound the steam whistle repeatedly to scatter the crowd of native.
Only the woman remains unmoved, with outstretched arms. The pilgrim open fire as the current carrier them swiftly downstream. Kurtz health worsen on the return trip and Marlow himself become increasingly ill. The steamboat break down and, while it is stopped for repairs, kurtz gives Marlow a packet of paper, including his commissioned report and a photograph, telling him to keep them away from the manager. When Marlow next speaks with him, kurtz is near death as he dies Marlow hearts him weakly whisper. The horror,the horror. A short while later, the manager boy announces to the rest of the crew in a scathing tone, mistah kurtz he dead. The next day Marlow pays little attention to the pilgrim as they bury something in a muddy hole.
He falls very ill,himself near death. Upon his return to Europe, Marlow is embittered and contemptuous of the civilised world. Many callers to him but Marlow withhold them or offers papers he know they have no interest in. He then gives Kurtz report to a journalist, for publication if he sees fit.
Finally Marlow is left with some personal letters and a photograph of kurtz fiance whom kurtz referred to as my intended . When Marlow visits her she is dressed in black and still deep in mourning although it has been more than a mourning, although it has been more than a year since kurtz death. She presses Marlow for information, asking him to repeat kurtz s final words.