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Literature Study GuidesHeart Of DarknessPart 2 At The Inner Station Summary

Heart of Darkness | Study Guide

Joseph Conrad

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Part 2: At The Inner Station

Kristen Over, Associate Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2: At The Inner Station of Joseph Conrad's book Heart of Darkness.

Heart of Darkness | Part 2 (At the Inner Station) | Summary



The steamer arrives at the Inner Station in disrepair, and Marlow sees a young man dressed as a harlequin urging them to land. Carrying weapons, the manager and pilgrims go up to the station, and the harlequin comes aboard. Marlow is nervous about the native people, but the young man says not to worry: "They are simple people."

The young man is Russian. Marlow gives him An Inquiry into Some Points of Seamanship, the book he found at the abandoned hut. The young man values the book. As he explains, the notes are not in code but in Russian.

The Russian also reveals that the earlier attack on the steamer came from these shores. He tells Marlow that he has a hard time keeping the native people from doing more harm to the steamer because "they don't want [Kurtz] to go," he says.


When the young man encounters Marlow, he talks at breakneck speed as if he has had no one to talk with for a long time: "Don't you talk with Mr. Kurtz?" Marlow asks. "You don't talk with that man," the young man answers, "you listen to him." This exchange reinforces Marlow's impression that Kurtz is eloquent but that his eloquence suggests a sort of imperial arrogance. Kurtz is someone who proclaims, but he does not listen. It is a mystery to Marlow, moreover, why the native people—from whom he knows Kurtz has been stealing ivory—do not want him to go.

The meeting with the Russian also clarifies the mystery of the book on seamanship that Marlow had recovered from the hut. The book was the Russian's, and he is overjoyed to see it. The annotations are not in code, as Marlow suspected when he found the book. Rather, they are in the Russian alphabet, which differs from the Roman alphabet. Still, the detail reinforces in another way the recurring theme of language and storytelling. To Marlow, Russian might as well be a code, because he cannot understand it. Language is elusive; stories cannot be fully understood by listeners. Communication, like the river Marlow traveled in the steamer, is fraught with snags and mishaps.

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