Heart of Darkness Study Guide

Part III, Section 3 Summary (pages 145-155)

Marlow becomes very ill and struggles with death himself. This makes him realize Kurtz is a remarkable man because at least he had something to say at the end of it all, whereas Marlow has nothing. He finds himself back in the " 'sepulchral city' " (146), and also finds he cannot stand people because he feels their " 'knowledge of life [is]…an irritating pretence' " (146).

A man sent by the Company attempts to obtain Kurtz's documents from Marlow. Marlow at first refuses, and then offers him Kurtz's report on the "Suppression of Savage Customs", but with the hand-written sentence at the end torn off reading "Exterminate all the brutes" so as not to reveal Kurtz's descent into savagery. The man leaves, threatening legal action. A second man, claiming to be Kurtz's cousin, appears two days later and leaves with " 'some family letters and memoranda without importance' " (148). Finally, a third man arrives, who says he's a colleague of Kurtz's and wants to know what happened to him. He tells Marlow Kurtz would have made a good extremist for any party, and Marlow gives him the report, which seems to satisfy him. Marlow decides to visit Kurtz's "Intended". He arrives, and before he even meets her decides to keep the dark truth from her for her own "salvation". When Marlow meets her, he sees she's still in mourning despite it having been a year since Kurtz died. She speaks with Marlow for some time as the darkness grows around them, and finally asks what Kurtz's final words were. Marlow lies, telling her they were her name. Marlow ends the story, and the narrator again compares him to a meditating Buddha.

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