Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Part II, Section 1 Summary (pages 91-99)

While lying one night on the deck of the steamer, Marlow innocently overhears the manager and his uncle talking about Kurtz. Marlow learns that Kurtz sent a quantity of ivory downriver in canoes and intended to return with it, but after three-hundred miles he decided to go back to the station despite it being depleted of stores and despite having recovered imperfectly from a bout of illness. The two men also discuss a man raiding the villages in Kurtz's district for ivory, and they say he should be hanged as an example (who turns out to be the Russian).

The expedition departs again, but news soon returns that all the donkeys have died. Marlow, the manager, a small number of "pilgrims" (the idle tradesmen hired by the Company), and twenty cannibals also finally get underway upriver to retrieve Kurtz by means of the repaired steamer. Marlow finds piloting the steamer upriver to be a difficult and time-consuming task. They pass outposts along the way " 'clinging to the skirts of the unknown' " (96). Marlow feels as he travels deeper " 'into the heart of darkness' " (97) that he is traveling on prehistoric Earth. Occasionally the natives emerge from the jungle and make energetic displays toward the ship, but Marlow and the others have no idea what these displays mean. Marlow does, however, admit that he can relate somewhat to the wild outbursts.

Marlow describes " 'the savage who was fireman' " (98), who watches the gauges and maintains the boiler even though he understands the apparatus to contain a vengeful spirit. The savage fireman and Marlow keep the ship running until they come upon an abandoned hut, about fifty miles from their destination: the Inner Station. They discover a stack of firewood and a sign that indicates the wood is for them and that they should "approach cautiously" (99).

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