Heart of Darkness Characters
The main characters of Heart of Darkness are Charles Marlow, Kurtz, the District Manager, the Russian traveler, and the narrator.
- Charlie Marlow is the protagonist, who tells his story of his travels up the Congo River and encounter with Kurtz.
- Kurtz is the manager of a trading station in the Congo. He uses corrupt methods while hunting for ivory in Africa, eventually becoming insane.
- The District Manager is Kurtz's enemy; he believes Kurtz's methods are destroying the district.
- The narrator is unnamed and sits on the deck of a ship with Marlow and several others as Marlow tells his story.
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 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.)
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.
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 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 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 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 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 is an old man travelling with the narrator, Marlow, and the Accountant in the frame story. Due to his age, he is the only one who sits on a rug and cushion.
The accountant is one of the travelers on the Nellie. He plays with a set of dominos before Marlow starts his story.
Fresleven was Marlow’s predecessor in the Congo. He was killed over a dispute about chickens. Described as quiet and gentle, he decided to beat up the chief of the local village, prompting the chief’s son to run a spear through Fresleven. The villagers scattered and the steamer abandoned the...
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The doctor makes sure that Marlow is healthy enough to travel to the Congo. He measures Marlow’s head for science and insinuates that the few who return are psychologically changed—and often deranged.
The Swede captains the steamboat that takes Marlow from the mouth of the river to the station where the Chief Accountant works.
The Chief Accountant impresses Marlow with his immaculate appearance, which contrasts starkly with the suffering of the Africans Marlow has just seen.
The foreman is one of Marlow’s friends in the Central Station. He helps Marlow repair the steamboat.
The pilgrims, as they are referred to by Marlow, are the white men on board the steamer heading to the Inner Station.
The helmsman is an African man who had been taught how to steer the steamboat by Fresleven. He is killed by a thrown spear when the ship is attacked by Kurtz’s African followers.
The Woman at the Central Station
Beautiful and fierce, the woman at the Central Station appears to hold power over the other Africans and is upset by Kurtz’s departure.
The General Manager's servant
The General Manager’s servant is a young, “overfed” African man. The General Manager allows him to treat the other white men rudely. He announces Kurtz’s death.