Heart Of Darkness

The following is a character analysis for all the main characters in Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness. Listed after each major character, in white, is the name of the person in the movie Apocalypse Now to which they correlate.

  • Narrator - The narrator (whose name is unrevealed) is one of several characters present on the Nellie at the beginning of the novel. He is actually a rather insignificant character throughout the story, but it is through his point of view that we learn of Charlie Marlow and his journey.

  • Charlie Marlow - The main character of the story, Marlow is a sailor who revels in exploring the uncharted areas of the world. Unlike the characters he meets on his journey, Marlow has not yet been "subjected" to the chaos that is the African Congo and therefore is able to view things in a somewhat rational light. During his journey through the Congo, Marlow comes to realize that the seemingly uncultured natives probably have more sense than the white Europeans who have come to civilize them. It is important to note that Marlow and Kurtz are the only two people in the novel who are addressed by their actual names. This is Conrad's way of showing them parallel to each other.(Willard)

  • Kurtz - Kurtz is the chief of the Inner Station and has become almost legendary due to his genius and his station's superior ivory production. Marlow makes it his goal to find Kurtz because he feels they share a similar passion for the wilderness. As the novel progresses, however, it becomes apparent that Kurtz is not altogether "with it." Years of living in the jungle have made him savage and fanatical. It is partly due to this savagery that the natives of the Congo revere him as a godlike being. Kurtz is in poor health by the time Marlow encounters him.(Kurtz)

    Remember this analogy: Kurtz is the man who jumps off the edge of sanity and plunges into the darkness of insanity. Marlow is the man who goes to the edge of sanity, looks over the edge, and has enough strength not to go over to the other side. Of course, he is changed because of it.

  • Chief Accountant - An occupant of the Outer Station, Marlow admires the accountant because he is able to dress in style and remain fashionable while the station around him is falling apart. The accountant is also the first to tell Marlow about the notorious Mr. Kurtz, saying that he is a "first-class agent" and "a very remarkable person."

  • General Manager - Chief of the Central Station, the general manager is often considered to be a foil of Kurtz. While both Kurtz and the manager seem to share some "evil" qualities, Kurtz's evil ultimately stems from his devotion to the natives. The manager, on the other hand, isn't concerned about anything but himself and his own success. Furthermore, Kurtz is able to control his people by inspiring awe and respect. The Manager controls his people simply through his ability to stay healthy and make people feel uneasy. Marlow considers him to be empty inside.(Kilgore)

  • Brickmaker - One of the manager's cronies, the brickmaker doesn't actually make any bricks since he supposedly lacks the materials. Marlow considers him to be empty inside just like the general manager. The brickmaker hoped to become assistant manager, but the arrival of Kurtz put a wrench in his plans, and he seems rather unhappy because of it.

  • Pilgrims - The pilgrims are named this way because they carry wooden staves with them everywhere they go. In actuality, they are agents from the Central Station. They all seem to share the same desire: to get appointed to a trading-post where they can obtain ivory and make money. Unfortunately, none of them actually bother to lift a finger when they have to get something done. They all share an animosity towards the natives and treat them poorly.(Soldiers)

  • Cannibals - The cannibals are a group of natives who are hired as crew members for Marlow's voyage. Marlow admires the fact that they are able to control their "cannibalistic urges" while onboard the ship. The cannibals seem to deal with the hardships of the voyage better than the pilgrims.(Vietnamese)

  • Russian trader - The Russian trader arrived to the Congo on a Dutch ship and ended up becoming a loyal companion of Kurtz. He regards Kurtz as an absolute genius whose words and ideas are amazingly powerful. It is the Russian who tells Marlow about Kurtz's fall into madness.(Hippie Photographer)

  • Helmsman - The helmsman is the pilot of Marlow's steamer and is somewhat inexperienced. During the attack by the natives, he is fatally wounded by an arrow to the chest. Only after his death does Marlow realize the strong bond that the two of them shared.(Boat captain)

  • Intended - The Intended is the finacee of Kurtz and is still in mourning one full year after Kurtz's death. When she asks Marlow what Kurtz's last words were, Marlow lies and says his last words were her name. The Intended only knows what Kurtz used to be like and not what he became right before his death.