European Humanities
Spring 2019
Mr. Spragins

Heart of Darkness (Reading Three) (pp. 38-59) pp. 16-26; 22-37

General Questions:

  • The Middle Station represents a progression not only deeper into the jungle but also deeper into the nature of human evil. What could be worse than the genocidal imperialism manifested by the Chief Accountant  at the Outer Station?
  • How long does Marlow spend at the Central Station?
  • How are conditions even worse at this site? 
  • What fever has possessed everyone there?
  • How does Marlow escape and continue his journey towards Kurtz?

The Trek to the Middle Station  (16-17) (22-23)

  • As Marlow treks deeper into the jungle, how does his character transform? 
  • What is his attitude towards the native Africans? 
  • What happens to Marlow's white companion (23) during the fifteen day, 200-mile tramp to the Central Station?

The Middle Station  (17-27) (24-38)

The General Manager 

  • What is the condition of the steamer that Marlow is supposed to command? (18) (25)
  • Carefully describe the General Manager at the Middle Station. What is un-nerving about his smile? (18-19) (25-26)
  • How does he keep control over the other agents? Why does Marlow describe them as pilgrims? (20) (27) (Find an excellent quote to support your analysis.)
  • What does the General Manager think of Kurtz? (19)

  The Conversation with the Second in Command 

  • Why are the white agents at the Middle Station suspicious of Marlow? Why do they believe he has been sent? (20-21) (26-27)
  • What do you think is the cause of the mysterious fire? (20) (27-28) (Notice that the man who is blamed can be heard groaning in the background throughout the rest of the chapter. What is happening to Marlow's empathy for the natives?)
  • Describe the General Manager's second in command, the 'paper-mache Mephistopholes' with the 'forked beard'. What is he trying to learn from Marlow?
  • What is the subject of the painting that Kurtz left at the Middle Station? (21-22) (30)
  • How does the agent describe Kurtz' mission? (22) (31-32)
  • What makes Marlow sympathize with Kurtz even though he has never met him? (23) (32)

The Un-named Narrator speaks:
  • When Marlow pauses, doubting that he can possibly communicate the meaning of his experieince,  the Un-named Narrator mentions how the story is affecting him. He says, "The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river." (51)


  • What strategy does Marlow use to get the rivets he will need to repair the steamship? (24-25) (33-34)
  • Who is Marlow's only friend at this camp? (26) (35)
  • What happens when the pilgrims fire their guns at the old hippo?
  • What impact has Marlow’s two-month stay at the Middle Station begun to have on his own mental health?
  • What arrives at the camp instead of rivets for the boat? (36)

The Overheard Conversation (pp. 56-57) (27-29) (38-41)

  • By his third month living at the Company's Middle Station, Marlow has taken to spending most of his days and every night aboard the steamboat that he has been trying to repair. One afternoon he overhears bits and pieces of a conversation between the Manager and his uncle (28) (38-41), the leader of the Eldorado Expeditionary Force. They are talking, of course, about Kurtz. They believe that Marlow has been sent on a special mission by the Home Office in Brussels to determine what is going on at the Inner Station..
  • Marlow also learns that only once has Kurtz made the journey back to the Middle Station, but at the last moment, he turned around and headed back into the wilderness. Since then, the rumor is that Kurtz has been ill but hasn't recovered completely from his disease. The only hard evidence of Kurtz's behavior in the interior has been the steady flow of enormous amounts of ivory down river. At this moment Marlow says that he perceives his first clear image of Kurtz, the man. 
  • Why did Kurtz turn his back on civilization, rejecting all thoughts of home and return to normal life?
  • The Manager and his uncle also refer to 'the pestiferous absurdity' of Kurtz's idealistic dreams of turning the ivory stations into beacons of humanity, education and improvement for the natives. 
  • How could they have been so sure that the jungle would end Kurtz's humanist mission?

Paragraph: The Middle Station

Compare the conditions at the Lower Station and the Middle Station. Focus your comparison on the characters of the Company's Chief Accountant and its General Manager. How do these characters represent two points in a progression towards Kurtz and Conrad's vision of human nature. Think also about the effect of this journey upon Marlow's character itself. How is he slowly turning into Kurtz?

Body Paragraph Four (continued):

We have noted that the situation in the Congo has begun to wear down Marlow's humanity. Yet Marlow is different from the other agents at the Middle Station. He is stuck there, waiting for rivets to fix his boat, but he manages to avoid turning into one of these 'rapacious imbeciles'? How?


The Middle Station


Reading Comprehension Quiz:


1.      How has Marlow’s character itself begun to transform as he journeys deeper into the jungle?

2.      What happens to Marlow’s white companion during the 15 day, 200-mile tramp to the Middle Station.?

3.      What fever has possessed all the ‘pilgrims’ at the Central Station?

4.      How does Marlow find the steamer that he is supposed to command?

5.      What does the General Manager do at the meetings at the Central Station to demonstrate his control over the other white agents?

6.      Why do they believe Marlow has come to the Congo?

7.      What do the ‘pilgrims’ at the Central Station think of Kurtz?

8.      What is the subject of the painting that Kurtz left at the Central Station?

9.      What equipment does Marlow need to repair the steamship?

10.  What arrives at the camp instead?