Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Part I, Section 2 Summary (pages 62-75)

Marlow arrives in an unnamed European city that always makes him " 'think of a whited sepulcher [tomb]' " (62), and immediately seeks out the " 'Company's offices…the biggest thing in town' " (62). Marlow is confronted by two knitting women in a waiting room before enduring a brief encounter with " 'the great man himself' " (63). Marlow is examined by a doctor who measures Marlow's skull and questions him about madness in his family history.

While visiting his aunt who obtained the position for him, Marlow discovers she's been talking him up a great deal. Marlow wonders that women could never handle the terrible knowledge of truth—this foreshadows Marlow's encounter at the end of the story with Kurtz's Intended, whom he chooses to lie to rather than expose her to the truth.

Marlow sets off by steamer to the unnamed jungle in "the centre of a continent" (66)—as a passenger—and contemplates the passing jungle shore. The reality of the place creeps up on Marlow when he sees natives paddling their boats and a war ship shelling the empty jungle. These sights are the beginning of the madness foreshadowed by the doctor at the Company offices. Marlow travels about thirty days before coming to the mouth of the river where he finds another boat to take him to his destination.

Marlow disembarks at the first of the Company's stations and discovers more meaningless blasting, this time to form a hole for which purpose he finds it " 'impossible to divine' "(71). He comes upon a terrible scene in a shady grove: " 'Black shapes crouched…in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair' " (71). Marlow realizes this is where the natives employed or enslaved by the Company come to die after performing meaningless work. Disturbed by the scene, Marlow departs and meets a tidy white man, the " 'Company's chief accountant' " (73) and the antithesis of the dying people he just left behind.

Marlow spends time with the accountant who eventually mentions Mr. Kurtz, the lead procurer of ivory for the Company and a man who is to become central to Marlow's life and his story.

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