Heart of Darkness

Literapedia Book Notes for

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad


  • the narrator (ch 1)—a friend of Marlow.
  • the Director of Companies (ch 1)—the owner and captain of the Nellie; Marlow’s friend.
  • the Lawyer (ch 1)—a friend of Marlow.
  • the Accountant (ch 1)—a friend of Marlow.
  • Charlie Marlow (ch 1)—a sailor who relates the story of his foray into Africa.
  • Marlow’s aunt (ch 1)—uses her influence to help Marlow procure a position as a steamboat captain.
  • the old doctor (ch 1)—gives Marlow a physical before his trip.
  • the Swedish captain (ch 1)—takes Marlow from the seat of government on the coast to the Company’s main station.
  • the chief accountant (ch 1)—meets Marlow at the main station.
  • the stout man with moustaches (ch 1)—works at the Central Station.
  • the general manager (ch 1)—tells Marlow that Kurtz is ill.
  • the manager’s spy (ch 1)—a brick-maker who is impressed with Marlow’s European connections.
  • the foreman (ch 1)—a boiler-maker by trade who helps Marlow make repairs to his steam boat.
  • the manager’s uncle (ch 1)—leads an expeditionary group.
  • the helmsman (ch 2)—steers Marlow’s boat up the river.
  • the Russian (ch 2)—a freelance trader befriended by Kurtz.
  • Kurtz (ch 3)—“a remarkable man”; an agent of the Company who is in charge of the Inner Station.
  • the native woman (ch 3)—Kurtz’s lover.
  • the manager’s boy (ch 3)—announces the death of Kurtz.
  • a clean-shaved man (ch 3)—a Company official who seeks Kurtz’s documents.
  • Kurtz’s cousin (ch 3)—believed Kurtz to be a musical genius.
  • a journalist (ch 3)—thought Kurtz would be a “splendid leader of an extreme party.”
  • the Intended (ch 3)—Kurtz’s fiancée.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1:
  • Aboard the Nellie, a cruising yawl anchored outside of London, Marlow begins the story of his adventures in Africa.
  • Marlow describes his interest in Africa and how he received help from an aunt in procuring a position in a trading Company.
  • After traveling to the European continent, Marlow signs his contract of employment with the Company and receives a physical.
  • Marlow travels to Africa and is given passage to the Company’s main station.
  • At the main station, Marlow meets the chief accountant and first learns of Kurtz, a first-class agent of the Company and the chief of the Inner Station.
  • Marlow travels 200 miles over ground to the Central Station only to find that his steamer had sunk.
  • When waiting for the materials with which to repair his boat, a new group arrives, headed by the general manger’s uncle.

Chapter 2:
  • In the middle of the night, Marlow overhears the general manager and his uncle talking about Kurtz.
  • Marlow begins the journey up the river, accompanied by the general manager, a number of agents (called pilgrims), and a crew made up of cannibals.
  • Fifty miles below the Inner Station they stop at a hut with a sign.
  • Eight miles below the station, the boat is attacked by savages.
  • Marlow jumps ahead in the narrative to describe Kurtz and the report for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs.
  • The boat arrives at the Inner Station, and Marlow meets the Russian trader.

Chapter 3:
  • Marlow and the Russian discuss Kurtz and his methods.
  • A very ill Kurtz is brought onto the boat on a stretcher, and the savage woman displays her frustration. Marlow speaks to the general Manager and then to the Russian, who leaves the station.
  • That night, Kurtz escapes into the forest, but Marlow talks with him and brings him back to the boat.
  • The next morning, the steamboat leaves the Inner Station and heads down the river.
  • Marlow shares Kurtz’s fevered ravings. Kurtz becomes even more sick and entrusts Marlow with his personal effects before he dies.
  • Marlow becomes very sick himself, and about a year later, finds himself in the “sepulchral city.”
  • Marlow is visited by a Company official, Kurtz’s cousin, and a journalist friend of Kurtz.
  • Marlow visits Kurtz’s Intended and delivers some of Kurtz’s personal letters.

Book Note Creator

Hal Waller, instructor