Kurtz is in charge of the
Inner Station, the company station deepest in the interior of the Congo. Kurtz is noted for his ability to obtain more ivory than all of the other
station managers together. At the same time he is feared for his
connections within the upper levels of the company and his unsound methods of
operation. When Marlow encounters Kurtz, Kurtz is in very poor
health. Kurtz dies before he can be returned to Europe.
Initially Kurtz has noble intentions, believing that Europeans can help to
bring culture to the region and its inhabitants; however, his experiences in
the interior radically transform him and his philosophy.
Charlie Marlow is the
novel's main character. He is a well-seasoned seaman who captains a
riverboat steamer up the Congo River into the heart of Africa.
He is a man who loves exploring
uncharted areas, but he is transformed by his experience in the Congo and his encounters with the enigmatic Kurtz. He comes to admire Kurtz and vows
to protect Kurtz's memory and the message he espouses.
The Central Station
The Central Station manager
is the main company agent in the area. Even though Kurtz is his most
productive agent, he wants to remove him because he fears that Kurtz wants to take
his job. The Manager serves as a contrast to Kurtz in that while Kurtz
commands so much respect that he is actually revered by his followers, the
Manager survives by making things uncomfortable for his workers.
The Brickmaker is a company
worker at the Central Station. He was initially sent to make bricks, but
as the ingredients for brick making cannot be located in the region, he has
become the Central Station Manager's secretary. Other workers think of
him as a spy for the Manager. He does, however, believe that Kurtz is
destined for great things within the company.
Marlow refers to the company
workers as "pilgrims."
Marlow refers to the natives
hired to help run the steamboat as cannibals. Marlow respects their
ability to control their urges and to remain calm in the face of
adversity. In many ways, the cannibals are more civilized than the
The Eldorado Exploration
The Eldorado Exploration
Expedition is a large caravan led by the uncle of the Central Station
Manager. The Expedition comes to the Central Station while Marlow is
there. Marlow later learns that it meets an untimely end in the
The Fireman is a native
Marlow employs to run the boiler on his boat. Marlow describes the
fireman as a rather savage individual who has been trained to tend the
The helmsman is a native who
steers Marlow's steamboat. He is killed by a spear in an exchange with
Kurtz's followers when the boat nears Kurtz's Inner Station. Marlow dumps
his body into the river.
The Harlequin is a Russian
sailor who wandered into the jungle in search of adventure. He eventually
encountered Kurtz and was immediately captivated by him. He now lives at
Kurtz's Inner Station. His clothes are made of a sturdy cloth but are
patched numerous times with bright colored fabric, which reminds Marlow of a
The Intended is Kurtz's
fianc´┐Że. She is a refined, cultured woman, and she remains faithful to
Kurtz long after his death. Marlow visits her upon his return to Europe, giving her a small packet of letters Kurtz has written and a photograph. She
implores Marlow to tell her Kurtz's last words.
The Native Woman
The Native woman may be
Kurtz's mistress. Clearly, she has a strong affection for him. She
is the dark counterpart to Kurtz's fianc´┐Że, his Intended.
Captain Fresleven is the man
Marlow replaces. He is killed in a scuffle with a native chief over two
hens. Fresleven beats the elderly chief, and the chief's son kills him
with a spear.
Marlow's aunt uses the
influence of her friends to secure his position as a steamboat captain.
She wants Marlow to undertake the adventure, stressing that he should help to
stamp out the savage ways of the natives.
The Nellie is the ship,
anchored in the Thames River, on which Marlow tells his tale.
The Director of
Companies, the Lawyer, and the Accountant
These men are present on the
Nellie when Marlow tells his tale. They are friends of Marlow, and they
have all shared various adventures at sea. They do not play a significant
role in the story, though they do occasionally scoff at it.
The actual narrator remains
unnamed. Nothing is learned of him, except that he is an acquaintance of