Detailed Summary Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Chapter II, Part I


While Marlow was sleeping, he awoke with somebody talking in a low voice about Kurtz. They were the manager and the uncle. From their conversation Marlow gathered that they were extremely jealous of Kurtz' success and they wanted to get rid of him. They described the work of Kurtz and his men in the deep as "pestilential fellow, snapping ivory from the natives". They believed: "We will not be free from unfair competition till one of these fellows is hanged". They were of the opinion that "anything-anything can be done in this country". Marlow remarks that the landscape "seemed to beckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart".

Later, Marlow heard the news that all the donkeys carrying the goods of Eldorado Expedition died. Marlow also describes the looming shadow of death which always accompanied every European. It was not only due to the diseases but also because of the environment and the geographical difficulties which seemed to be naturally so that the intruders could be kept away. Marlow describes that it took them nearly two months to reach the bank below Kurtz' station. He could observe the nature in its wildest beauty in the heart of Congo. Rowing a boat in the river seemed to him "the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings". He could observe "on silvery sand-banks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side". He remembers it as a "strange world of plants, and water, and silence".

Marlow says that "when you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality-the reality, I tell you-fades. The inner truth is hidden-luckily, luckily". Marlow relates that it was so difficult for him to drive the boat that it was no less than "a blindfolded man set to drive a van over a bad road". The rotten and damned place was by no means worth living but it was quite strange that white men were "being held there captive by a spell". He relates that during all the voyages there was silence and wilderness and the "word ivory would ring in the air for a while-and on we went again into the silence".

During that journey toward Kurtz, there was one such passage on which the ship got so slow that it seemed to be crawling on ground. Marlow calls the land of Congo "prehistoric" and he considered himself among "the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil". Soon they reached land. He observed some natives with gestures: "The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us-who could tell"? Marlow refers to the practices of dark ages with the deeds of Europeans in Congo: "we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign-and no memories".

The naked Negroes appeared howling and shouting. Marlow agrees that they were ugly yet they were not inhuman. One would get a glimpse of humanity if one is not devoid of feelings. Some fifty miles ahead of that spot, Marlow and company stopped at a hut of reeds on the bank of river. There Marlow found a book "An Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship, by a man Towser, Towson". They began their journey again. And after one day of travelling, there was about eight miles yet to travel. They decided to stay where they were and would resume their travelling in the morning. The night passed peacefully but early next day they were terrorized by a roar which came from where nobody knew. It was feared that some natives were out there to prey upon the white men.

Marlow's ship could not move because of the fog. The crew and the passengers of the ship were hungry. It was the most trying period for their lives. Marlow relates that there were some Negroes hired by the company. They were paid in brass. They were allowed to buy from nearest village. However, either the manager won't allow them to or the villagers would be so hostile that they dare not enter it. In the wake of the natives' threat and to reach Kurtz soon, the manager asked Marlow to move but he refused because moving in fog would mean suicide. In two hours' time the fog was clear and they could move.



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