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Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad

Part 1 (continued)

Summary Part 1 (continued)

In this section, Marlow finally learns the reason for the journey he is to take up the Congo, although he does not yet realize the importance this reason will later take on. The chief accountant is the first to use the name of the mysterious Mr. Kurtz, speaking of him in reverent tones and alluding to a conspiracy within the Company, the particulars of which Marlow never deciphers. Again, the name “Kurtz” provides a surface that conceals a hidden and potentially threatening situation. It is appropriate, therefore, that the chief accountant is Marlow’s informant. In his dress whites, the man epitomizes success in the colonial world. His “accomplishment” lies in keeping up appearances, in looking as he would at home. Like everything else Marlow encounters, the chief accountant’s surface may conceal a dark secret, in this case the native woman whom he has “taught”—perhaps violently and despite her “distaste for the work”—to care for his linens. Marlow has yet to find a single white man with a valid “excuse for being there” in Africa. More important, he has yet to understand why he himself is there.