Marlow, the central character and narrator of the story stumbles into the Belgian Congo wanting to sail his steamboat but discovers much more. He possesses a strong sense of the past and has a good work ethic; as stated by Marlow in The Heart of Darkness, “working hard is a means of achieving sanity” (Conrad 2007). Marlow comes from an upper middle class European background, therefore his world view is that of a typical European. Nevertheless, he is projected as a versatile individual who does not belong to a particular class, and is therefore able to relate to different types of individuals much more effortlessly as opposed to his peers. Marlow’s work as a seaman allows him to retain a hold on the positive aspects of life due to the reality that work remains his only constant (Conrad 2007). This is apparent in the first chapter, when Marlow’s shipmate is fatally hit with an arrow and Marlow returns to work almost immediately. Therefore, it is evident that Marlow sees work as a means to escape the commotion in his own mind, as well as the hidden truths of the Congo which gradually become apparent. Marlow’s strong belief in hard work shows the same integrity in the work he undertakes to protect Kurtz’s reputation.
Kurtz signifies an ambitious man who is depicted as a hero to all, but Marlow’s sense of sarcasm causes him to decide for himself. Kurtz’s heroic depiction is illustrated on page 49, where Marlow states “all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz, and by and by I learned that most appropriately the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report for its future guidance" (Conrad, p.49). As the story commences, it is evident to the reader that Marlow has always wanted to travel to Africa, but during his travels, Marlow soon realizes that he is mainly searching for the “voice” of Kurtz, rather than the physical figure of the man (Conrad 2010). Kurtz is filled with greed, and his voracious hunger for ivory causes him to acquire enemies among the native Africans (who are often referred to as “savages”), and he is described by Marlow in relation to the material he was on the hunt for: his head “was like a ball – an ivory ball” (Conrad, p. 29), and in his final moments, he carried an “expression of sombre pride” on his “ivory face” (Conrad, p. 42). As Marlow continues his journey into the Belgian Congo, he is bombarded with confronting facts and learns disturbing truths about Kurtz and the treatment of the Negroes. This is evident when Marlow hears that Kurtz has the heads of the “savages” on a stick, without the expression of remorse.
The Heart of