Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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At a Glance

  • Charlie Marlow: the protagonist, who travels up the Congo River in search of a man named Kurtz.
  • Kurtz: the manager of a trading station in the Belgian Congo, who uses corrupt methods while hunting for ivory in Africa, eventually becoming insane. 
  • The District Manager: Kurtz's enemy, who believes Kurtz's methods are destroying the district.
  • The Russian traveler: one of Kurtz's many admirers.

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List of Characters

Marlow

Charles Marlow is thin and weathered, He resembles a religious or spiritual figure, being initially described as an “idol.” By the conclusion of his tale, he resembles a meditating Buddha, sitting cross-legged. Marlow is unusual for a sailor because he is motivated by his desire to explore different lands, whereas other seamen are content with life on the open sea. (Read extended character analysis of Marlow.)

Kurtz

Kurtz is a mysterious figure throughout much of the novel. Marlow first hears about him from the Chief Accountant, who describes him as a first-class agent in charge of a very important trading post. Kurtz contributes more ivory than the all other posts combined. (Read extended character analysis of Kurtz.)

General Manager

The General Manager is a middle-aged trader raised mostly in Africa. His most unusual habit is that he smiles, unconsciously, at the end of statements, making it seem like he knows something others don’t. He inspires general uneasiness. He also tends to repeat himself. He is the established leader of the Central Station. His extraordinarily hearty constitution is credited with his rise through the ranks and his long tenure as a leader, because he is an otherwise average individual.

Russian Trader

The Russian trader, often referred to as the Russian, is a carefree young man who is exploring the Congo for the thrill of it. He is described as looking like a court jester, with colorful, patched-up clothes. He left at the camp his beloved book—Towson’s An Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship—along with a short warning for whoever was tasked with apprehending Kurtz. The Russian greatly admires Kurtz. He leaves with very few supplies when he finds out that the General Manager thinks he should be hanged for aiding Kurtz’s unorthodox methods of obtaining ivory.

The Narrator

The narrator is an unnamed man aboard the Nellie. His profession is undisclosed. He knows Marlow fairly well, since he is unsurprised by Marlow’s philosophizing and recounting of a characteristically “inconclusive” story. He is captivated by Marlow’s tale, listening to the very end.

The Brickmaker

The brickmaker is a young man who has nothing to do, because he lacks an essential ingredient for making bricks. He is said to be the General Manager’s spy, and after a hut explodes in a fire, he begins talking with Marlow. He thinks Marlow is well-connected in Europe but soon gets annoyed with Marlow. The brickmaker plans to become the assistant manager and is annoyed by Kurtz’s antics.

General Manager’s Uncle

The General Manager’s uncle leads the Eldorado Exploring Expedition.

Kurtz’s Fiancée

Kurtz’s Fiancee, also referred to as “Kurtz’s Intended,” continues to grieve for more than a year after Kurtz’s death, when she receives his letters from Marlow.

Marlow’s Aunt

Marlow’s aunt secures Marlow’s place in the Trading Company as a replacement for Fresleven.

Director of Companies

The Director of Companies is the captain of the Nellie. He appears trustworthy and competent.

The Lawyer

The Lawyer is an old man travelling with the narrator, Marlow, and the Accountant in the...

(The entire section is 843 words.)