Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Part III, Section 2 Summary (pages 134-145)

Marlow relates to the Russian the conversation he'd overheard while repairing the steamer—that the manager thought the Russian ought to be hanged. Marlow assures the Russian that Kurtz's reputation is safe with him, but is unsure of how truly he speaks. Marlow discovers Kurtz ordered the attack on the steamer in hopes of convincing them he was dead (which almost worked). Marlow gives ammunition to the Russian, who then makes his escape by way of canoe.

Marlow is awoken by a cry in the night, and sees that Kurtz is absent from the cabin. Rather than raise the alarm, Marlow follows his trail toward a fire where natives drum and chant. He cuts off Kurtz (who is crawling on all fours) and Kurtz tells him to hide himself. Marlow convinces him that if he goes to the fire he will be lost (though he believes him to be already). After some consideration of Kurtz's spiritual condition, Marlow helps him back to the cabin. In the morning, the natives fill the clearing again as the steamer departs with Kurtz. Three shaman-type natives appear to try to invoke and direct magic at the steamer. The witch-woman appears again and shouts at the steamer, which causes the rest of the natives to begin shouting as well. Marlow sees the "pilgrims" preparing to shoot so he sounds the steam whistle. All of the natives except for the woman flee, and the "pilgrims" start shooting.

The steamer is borne quickly out of " 'the heart of darkness' " (141), and Kurtz draws quickly closer to death. Kurtz "discourses" about his struggles, his "Intended", his career, and his absurd plans. Kurtz gives Marlow a packet of papers and a photograph in order to conceal them from the manager. Kurtz has a " 'supreme moment of complete knowledge' " (144) before breathing his last words: "The horror! The horror!" (144). The literal dark grows more oppressive and fearsome to Marlow.