Summary and Analysis
The final meeting between Marlow and Kurtz's Intended dramatizes this conflict in Marlow's heart. The Intended (who knows little about the real Kurtz) contrasts Kurtz's native mistress (who presumably knew intimately of his "various lusts") and brings to mind the duality of Kurtz's character. Dressed in mourning for over a year, she, too, suggests the complete devotion of Kurtz's followers: "For her he had died only yesterday." Her black mourning dress, "ashen halo," and dark eyes bring to mind the numerous examples of light and dark imagery throughout the novel — except that here, the images are more pronounced than anywhere else in the book. The Intended's "darkness" reflects her own sorrow at the loss of her love, but Marlow attempts to hide a greater and more threatening darkness: The truth about Kurtz.
Marlow is not deliberately trying to be sarcastic by repeating the Intended's words; the irony of the naïve Intended presuming to "know Kurtz best" is what gives Marlow's repetitions their bite.
As Marlow struggles to maintain his composure, he notices the physical and metaphorical darkness that permeates the room. He arrives at the Intended's house at dusk. At the beginning of the conversation, he notices the room "growing darker" and only her forehead remaining "illumined by the inextinguishable light of belief and love." When she begins explaining that she knew Kurtz better than anyone else, Marlow comments, "The darkness deepened" and, in his heart, bows his head before her. The truth about Kurtz — metaphorically represented in the coming of night — becomes more difficult for Marlow to hide, because the Intended's presumed knowledge of Kurtz becomes more unnerving to him as they continue. After the "last gleams of twilight" fall, Marlow even admits to feeling some "dull anger" at her naiveté, but this feeling turns to "infinite pity" when Marlow realizes the immensity of her ignorance. This is why, when asked to repeat Kurtz's final words, Marlow cannot bring himself to repeat, "The horror! The horror!" and instead tells a lie that gives great comfort to the Intended while simultaneously securing Kurtz's reputation. Despite the fact that Marlow knows that lies are wrong, he cannot refrain from telling this one, because to do so "would have been too dark — too dark altogether." As the Intended gratefully receives Marlow's lie, so Europe accepts the one it tells itself about building empires and civilizing "savages."
ulster a long, loose, heavy overcoat, especially one with a belt, originally made of Irish frieze (wool).
the first of the ebb the start of the outgoing or falling tide.