of Darkness (Reading
Paragraph: Describe the Inner
Station. What has happened to Kurtz there?
Upon arrival at the Inner Station, Marlow talks with a
young and ragged Russian who came to Africa on his own and then lit off
into the jungle in search of adventure, only to be drawn into Kurtz's
- What is wrong with this guy? (48-52)
- With what dreams
did Kurtz charm him? (49-50) (67)
- Why does Conrad choose this man to be the lens
through whom we see the final image of Kurtz before he actually enters the
stage of the action? (Remember that when Conrad himself was a young man, he
too ran away from home and joined the merchant marines to see the
Fool on Kurtz: (51-52) (69-70)
Marlow learns from the Fool that Kurtz has assembled a
personal army of headhunters (51-52) (69-70) who
worship him like a god. Marlow also learns of their brutal marauding
expeditions in search of ivory and their bizarre rituals in which human
sacrifices were offered to the great white god. The Fool speaks
rapturously of Kurtz's genius and vision. He still believes that
Kurtz's actions are justified because they have given him the power to
transform the jungle into an enlightened realm.
- Is Kurtz a new type of jungle warlord, or has his
kind held sway over regions of the world since the
beginnings of human society? Is Conrad's point that Kurtz has just 'gone native'?
- Which philosopher would have agreed with the Fool's
defense of Kurtz: "You can't judge him as you would an ordinary
- What did Kurtz scrawl at the end of his unfinished
report (45-46) (61-62)
"International Society for the Suppression of Native Customs"? (Marlow
told us of this report just after he had described tossing his bloody
boot into the river.)
- What does Marlow understand about Kurtz when he
discovers that the 'ornamental balls' on the posts of the stockade are human
skulls (52-53)? What effect
(53) has absolute power had on Kurtz's character?
Heart of Darkness: (54-61) (73-83)
A huge cry rings throughout the clearing, and Marlow watches in fear
and wonder as hundreds of natives spill out and around a figure being
drawn in a stretcher towards the steamer. Marlow looks through his
binoculars and sees Kurtz for the first time.
- Does Marlow realize the danger he is in at this
- How does Marlow describe the figure he sees through
- Describe Kurtz's
voice (54-55) (74). (What twentieth century dictator also possessed
extraordinary oratorical powers?)
- What disease
dying from? Has Marlow caught the same disease?
- Why has Kurtz decided to go back with the Company
Once Kurtz is aboard the steamboat, an
extraordinary woman (55-56) (75-76) approaches, dressed in wild and gorgeous finery. Who is she? What gesture
does she make? What is its meaning?
What is the Manager's comment upon Kurtz's unique
business practices, despite the huge haul of ivory (fossilized!) that has been loaded
on to the steamer?
Wrestles with Kurtz: (58-61) (79-81)
That night Marlow awakens to find the boat completely
quiet, the guards fast asleep, and Kurtz himself gone! Kurtz's tribe
has built a huge fire in the distance, and Marlow can hear the sounds
of drums and chanting. He is suddenly seized by 'sheer blank fright'
unlike the sense of 'commonplace deadly danger' (63). He gets off the
boat (for the first time) and goes off alone in pursuit of Kurtz.
- Why is Marlow terrified when he realizes that Kurtz
- When Marlow
catches up with Kurtz (60-61) (81-82)
off his approach to the fire, what does he tell him?
- What is the real danger that Marlow faces at this
Kurtz's Death, Kurtz's Essay, Marlow's Illness, and
the Return to Civilization
As the steamer slips out on to the river, Marlow
blasts the whistle to frighten the natives away and to prevent the agents
from opening fire with their rifles. The only person who does not flinch is
the 'barbarous and superb woman' (66) who gestures with outstretched arms as
the boat rounds the bend. Heading quickly down river, Kurtz still fantasizes
about his eventual return and the final accomplishment of his dreams, but
downriver the boat breaks down and must pull up to the bank for repairs. Only
then does Kurtz realize that everything is lost.
- With what does Kurtz come
face to face during the final moments of his life?
- What are Kurtz's last
- Who says, "Mr.
Kurtz- he dead!"?
- How has his encounter
with Kurtz nearly killed Marlow?
- How is Kurtz Marlow's
'double', his secret self?
- How does Marlow's own
struggle with death teach him the meaning of Kurtz's last words?