Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Part II, Section 2 Summary (pages 100-123)

About eight miles from the Inner Station, the steamer stops for the night, and in the morning, a heavy fog descends, impeding further progress. They hear a great cry and a series of shrieks amidst what was previously total silence. Marlow wonders why the cannibals they are traveling with have not eaten them. They decide the cry was an attempt to repel them—to protect something, and the fog lifts. Suddenly the air is "thick" with arrows as they are attacked by swarms of jungle natives. The handful of "pilgrims" onboard return fire with rifles. The unstable helmsman foregoes steering the vessel to join the shooting into the bush. Marlow grabs the wheel and straightens out the steamer, and meanwhile the helmsman is killed by a spear. Marlow blows the steam whistle, which scares off the natives and ends the attack.

Marlow takes a break from telling the story to smoke, and when he begins again, he speaks of Kurtz and the women Kurtz was to marry. He also muses about the differences between the developed world and the jungle wilderness and what it means to live in those disparate environments. Marlow continues speaking about Kurtz, and discloses that Kurtz took " 'a high seat amongst the devils of the land—I mean literally' " (116) and that Kurtz presided " 'at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites' " (117).

Marlow throws the body of the helmsman into the river to keep the cannibals from eating him. Still moving down the river, the "pilgrims" conduct a short funeral for the dead man, and then the steamer comes at last to the Inner Station. Marlow sees a hut with what he thinks are fence posts and a white man beckoning him in. The man assures the manager that everything is all right despite the recent attack. The manager and the pilgrims, armed, go ashore to the hut, and the man, who reminds Marlow of a harlequin, comes aboard and introduces himself as a Russian. He says he is the one who left the wood at the abandoned hut. Marlow returns his beloved book to him. The Russian informs Marlow that they were attacked because the natives did not want Kurtz to leave and that Kurtz has enlarged his mind.

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