Marlow tells the story of his journey into the depths of the Congolese jungle in hindsight to the passengers on the deck of the Nellie and elaborates on how his experiences in Africa have drastically altered his view of humanity and imperialism. As a young man, Marlow was enthusiastic about traveling to the "blank spaces" on the maps and wished to visit the enigmatic jungles of Africa. Marlow initially supported imperial conquest and believed that the European nations were positively affecting the world by spreading civilization. With the help of his aunt, Marlow became an employee of the Company and was given command of a steamboat to travel into the heart of the Congolese jungle on a mission to meet the notorious Kurtz.
On Marlow's journey to Africa, he witnesses the Company's inefficient, wasteful nature and meets several unscrupulous, greedy employees competing with others to advance their rank in the Company. At each station, Marlow becomes more and more disgusted with imperial conquest, and he observes everything from slavery to murder. After witnessing the extensive corruption involved in the Company's imperial conquest, Marlow holds onto hope that Kurtz has retained his civility and morality. Once Marlow arrives at the Central Station, he discovers that Kurtz has developed into a fanatical megalomaniac who has been completely corrupted by the depths of the Congolese jungle. After meeting Kurtz and journeying deep into the African continent, Marlow discovers that man is inherently wicked and corrupt when separated from society's laws and institutions. He also is left with a genuine understanding of the destructive nature of imperialism, and his journey has made him an enlightened individual, which is why he is depicted as a meditating Buddha on the deck of the Nellie.