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Heart of Darkness | Study Guide

Joseph Conrad

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Course Hero. "Heart of Darkness Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed June 3, 2023.


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Character Analysis

Learn about the characters in Joseph Conrad's book Heart of Darkness with Course Hero's video study guide.

Heart of Darkness | Characters

Character Description
Marlow Marlow is the protagonist, a British steamboat pilot who signs on with a Belgian company whose business is to extract ivory from the center of Africa. Read More
Kurtz Kurtz is the evasive Company agent at the Inner Station whom the Company wishes to relieve from duty. Read More
Jungle The jungle is the ever-present antagonist in the story—a fierce, riotous darkness. It is a place that resists labels such as black, white, primitive, and civilized. Read More
Manager The manager is the contemptible leader of the Company's Central Station. Read More
Russian The Russian is a young man who has traveled alone to the Inner Station in a spirit of adventure and found Kurtz, whom he idolizes. Read More
Helmsman The helmsman is the African man who steers the steamboat on the river. Read More
Narrator The unnamed narrator is a character in the story. He frames the story told by Marlow and occasionally comments on it.
Brickmaker The brickmaker is in charge of making bricks at the Central Station, but he cannot make bricks because he does not have the appropriate materials. He is also a spy for the station manager.
Pilgrims The pilgrims are Company agents, called pilgrims by Marlow because they carry wooden staffs, as Christian pilgrims of the Middle Ages had done. They also carry rifles, which they are ready to use. A skittish and fearful lot, they can be seen as pilgrims in the sense that they are apparently true believers in the Company's so-called civilizing mission but are most interested in exploiting the natural resources, including ivory, from the region.
Manager's Uncle The Central Station manager's uncle leads the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, his own effort to find his fortune by exploiting Africa's resources, and agrees with his nephew about the need to get rid of Kurtz.
Company Accountant The Company accountant is a Company official Marlow meets at the coastal station before heading to the interior. Committed to the Company's goals of maximizing profits, he speaks approvingly of Kurtz's prodigious output and expects Kurtz to rise to become one of the Company's managers.
Crew The crew are the African men who work on the steamer. They gather wood for fuel, put wood in the boiler, watch for danger, and take up arms when needed to protect the steamer, Marlow, the Central Station manager, and the pilgrims.
Fireman The fireman was a member of the steamer's crew who made sure the boiler was working properly. Marlow feels he does a good job because he was trained but does not understander the technology; he sees it as magic.
Intended The Intended is Kurtz's fiancée who awaits his return in Europe.
Aunt Marlow's aunt recommends him for the pilot's job with the Company. She accepts the idea of the "civilizing mission" that is Europeans' ideological justification for imperialism.
Doctor The doctor examines Marlow before he leaves for the Africa. He asks Marlow odd questions and suggests that going to Africa is an unsettling experience.
African Woman The African woman is a beautiful indigenous native woman presumed to be Kurtz's lover.
Company Official The Company official visits Marlow after his return to Brussels in hopes of gaining any intelligence Kurtz may have gathered in his travels in Africa. He has no interest in Kurtz's report, which has nothing to do with commerce.
Kurtz's Cousin Kurtz's cousin also visits Marlow back in Brussels; he expresses great admiration for Kurtz and his talents.
Journalist The journalist is a former colleague of Kurtz's who also visits Marlow when he returns to Brussels. Marlow gives him Kurtz's report.
Kurtz's Followers These Africans act and move as a group (like the crew and the pilgrims). They seem to worship Kurtz as a deity and to follow his orders.
Director of Companies The Director of Companies pilots the yacht on the Thames on which Marlow tells his story. His company is not the same as the Belgian company Marlow travels to Africa for.
Accountant The Accountant is one of the group on the yacht who listens to Marlow's story.
Lawyer The Lawyer is one of the group on the yacht who listens to Marlow's story.
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