Heart of Darkness (Reading Six)
Paragraph Eight: Whose ending should we believe,
Marlow's or Conrad's?
Kurtz's Death, Marlow's Illness, and
the Return to Civilization
As the steamer slips out on to the river, Marlow
blasts the whistle to frighten the natives away and to prevent the agents
from opening fire with their rifles. The only person who does not flinch is
the 'barbarous and superb woman' (66) who gestures with outstretched arms as
the boat rounds the bend. Heading quickly down river, Kurtz still fantasizes
about his eventual return and the final accomplishment of his dreams, but
downriver the boat breaks down and must pull up to the bank for repairs. Only
then does Kurtz realize that everything is lost.
- With what does Kurtz come
face to face during the final moments of his life?
- What are Kurtz's last
- Who says, "Mr.
Kurtz- he dead!"?
- How has his encounter
with Kurtz nearly killed Marlow?
- How is Kurtz Marlow's
'double', his secret self?
- How does Marlow's own
struggle with death teach him the meaning of Kurtz's last words?
Marlow in Brussels
- In Brussels, why does
Marlow find it difficult adjusting to the sight of people going about
their normal daily routines? (70)
- What does Kurtz's old
newspaper buddy believe his true occupation should have been? (116)
Having dispensed with nearly all of Kurtz's papers, Marlow makes one last
visit, to Kurtz's fiancée. He has come to return some letters. Waiting in her
beautifully apportioned parlor, Marlow looks about and his glance lingers on
the ivory keys of the grand piano.
- What are Kurtz's fiancée's memories
of him? (120-122) (92-93)
- What does Marlow
remember when he observes, with a pang of compassion, that this woman's
grief is still fresh despite the passage of a whole year since Kurtz's
- What is so ironic and
terrible about her memories of Kurtz? (Notice her gesture on page 75. Of
whom does that remind you?)
- Why does Marlow lie to her about
Kurtz's final words? (123) (96)
The Final Paragraph
In the novel's famous final paragraph, the un-named narrator describes
Marlow just after he has fallen silent, having ended his strange tale.
- How does the un-named
narrator describe Marlow?
- Why does the narrator
describe him as like 'a meditating Buddha'? What does the Buddha teach
us is the meaning of all existence?
- How has the novel gone full circle?