Summary and Analysis Part 3



The Harlequin told Marlow that he had spent many nights listening to Kurtz speak about a variety of subjects. Marlow further learned that Kurtz was prone to wandering into the jungle with his band of native followers on ivory raids. While listening to the Harlequin, Marlow looked through his binoculars at Kurtz's quarters and discovered that the round knobs he previously saw on the posts bordering the house were the heads of native "rebels," turned inward to face Kurtz as he sat inside. Suddenly, Marlow saw a group of natives appear from a corner of the house, bearing Kurtz on a stretcher. Fearing an attack, Marlow, the Harlequin, and everyone on the steamboat stood still — until Marlow saw Kurtz's emaciated arm emerge from the stretcher and order his army to leave. The Manager and other agents laid Kurtz in his bed and delivered his belated pieces of mail.

Marlow left Kurtz's room and saw, on the bank of the river, Kurtz's African Mistress, who captivated Marlow with her pride, stature, and appearance. She boarded the steamboat for a minute without speaking, lifted her arms, and then vanished into the bush. Marlow then heard Kurtz speaking derisively to the Manager from inside his room. Trying to appear nonplussed, the Manager came out of the room and told Marlow that, while Kurtz had amassed a remarkable quantity of ivory, he was low and that his ivory district would have to be closed because his method was unsound. Fearful of the Manager's intentions, the Harlequin told Marlow his suspicion that Kurtz's White rescuers were actually trying to hurt him. Recalling the overheard conversation between the Manager and his uncle, Marlow told the Harlequin that he was correct. The Harlequin then revealed that Kurtz had ordered the attack on the steamboat because "he hated the idea of being taken away." The Harlequin asked Marlow to guard Kurtz's reputation once he arrived in Europe, asked him for some rifle cartridges and shoes, and then left the Inner Station.

Shortly after midnight, Marlow awoke to the sounds of a drumbeat and natives reciting incantations. After hearing a "burst of yells," Marlow entered Kurtz's room and found he had escaped. He found Kurtz crawling through the grass and finally approached him. At first, Kurtz told Marlow to run and hide himself — but he then began telling Marlow that he had "immense plans" that were ruined by the Manager. Marlow listened, hoping that Kurtz would make no noise or give no sign for his men to attack. Finally, Marlow led Kurtz back to his room.

They left the Inner Station the next day. As they floated downstream, three natives covered in bright red earth shouted some form of spell; they next saw Kurtz's native mistress run to the riverbank and begin shouting something that the rest of Kurtz's 1,000 followers began repeating. The Whites on the steamboat began pointing their rifles at the shore; to avoid a massacre, Marlow began blowing the whistle to scare the natives away. Many of them ran, but the "wild woman" did not. The Whites on deck then opened fire on Kurtz's followers.

As they made their way to the sea (and Europe), Kurtz continued to talk of his ideas, plans, station, and career. Kurtz gave Marlow a packet of papers and a photograph and asked him to keep it for him, out of reach of the Manager. One evening, after repairing the engine, Marlow entered Kurtz's room and heard him whisper his final words: "The horror! The horror!" Marlow entered the mess-room and refused to meet the inquiring eyes of the Manager. Eventually, the Manager's servant boy peeked into the mess-room and announced, in a contemptuous voice, "Mistah Kurtz — he dead." Kurtz was buried in the jungle the next day. Stricken by Kurtz's death, Marlow almost considered suicide, and the remainder of his journey back to Europe is omitted from his narrative.

Back in Brussels, Marlow's aunt tried to nurse him back to health. An unnamed representative of the Company then visited Marlow and wanted the papers that Kurtz had given to Marlow. As he did when pressed by the Manager on their voyage home, Marlow refused. He eventually gave the man the copy of Kurtz's report on "The Suppression of Savage Customs," but with the postscript ("Exterminate all the brutes!") torn off. Marlow then met Kurtz's cousin, who told Marlow that Kurtz was a great musician and a "universal genius." Marlow gave him some unimportant family letters from the packet. A journalist then accosted Marlow, eager for information about Kurtz. As they talked, the journalist told Marlow that Kurtz could have been a great politician for any party, because he had the charisma and voice to "electrify" large meetings. Marlow gave him Kurtz's report on "Savage Customs" and the journalist said he would print it.

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