The story begins with the narrator and four men waiting on a cruising yawl for the tide to go out. The company includes a lawyer, an accountant, the ship’s captain and Charlie Marlow.They exchanged a few words lazily. The Narrator considers Marlow more as a wanderer than a seaman. As the night’s darkness start to cover the Nellie river, Marlow imagines the scenario when the Romans first explored the area some nineteen hundred years ago when the place was still uncivilized and deprived of necessities. He comments how these conquests lead to violence and mass murder. These thoughts lead him to recall his own story about traveling to an uncivilized place.
Marlow goes to Africa as a steamboat captain for a European trading company which was exporting ivory from the continent. His aunt friend’s influence in the company helps him in getting the appointment. He reaches the company’s office for signing official documents and undergoes a medical inspection.Marlow leaves on French streamer towards the center of Africa where he was supposed to meet with his boat. The streamer passes various trading coast landing soldiers and clerks. During his 30 days long trip, he sees a French man-of-war firing into the jungle apparently engaged in war with the natives.
He experiences a sense of lugubrious amusement about this and feels baffled when someone on board calls the natives as enemies. Marlow arrives at the company station and sees a lot of black people, naked, moving like ants and feels that they are neither enemies nor criminals, just slaves of white people. He meets the Company’s chief accountant and learns that all the book keeping is done at this station. The accountant tells him about Mr.
Kurtz who he is one of the first-class agent present in charge of an important internal station and sends as much ivory as all other agents put together. Marlow waits for another ten days after which he left for the central station where he was supposed to meet his boat.Marlow reaches the central station after fifteen days of hiking through the dense jungle. The manager of the station informs him that his steamboat is broken and he should repair it as soon as possible as the upriver stations have to be relieved. He also tells Marlow that there were rumors that Mr. Kurtz’s station was in jeopardy and he was ill.
The manager considers Mr. Kurtz an exceptional man and of the greatest importance to the company. Marlow was given three months to repair his ship. One day he meets the station’s brickmaker who was entrusted by the business to make bricks. Marlow suspects his motives and makes him baffled as to why the brickmaker was showing so much interest in knowing about his acquaintances.
The brickmaker considers Kurtz as a prodigy, emissary of pity, science, and progress.One evening Marlow covertly hears the conversation between the station’s manager and his uncle talking about Kurtz. The manager tells his uncle that a year ago Kurtz send a letter asking him to be left alone which the manager found very insulting. He discloses that since then Kurtz had sent a large quantity of ivory with the help of a fleet of canoes in charge of half-caste clerk but coming after three hundred miles Kurtz returned back to the inner station and the half-cast informed them that Kurtz was ill. The manager worries about a fellow who was snapping ivory from the natives and was operating in Kurtz’s district. He feels that the fellow should be hanged if they want to eliminate unfair competition. Eventually, Marlow with the company of the manager, three to four pilgrims, their slaves, and twenty cannibals starts his long journey towards Kurtz’s station along the narrow river.
Along the river, Marlow sees various villages whose inhabitants howled, leaped and spun, although he cannot understand what those activities signify, he found it human and the thought how these inhabitants share same human-like feelings like the Europeans thrilled him. Some fifty miles below the inner station they found a hut of reeds. They see a stack of firewood and on top of it was written ‘Wood for you. Hurry up.
Approach cautiously’. Marlow finds a book about seamanship inside the hut and the manager predicts that it belongs to the intruder who was stealing ivory from Kurtz’s area. About Eight miles away from Kurtz’s station Marlow and the company was blind-folded by the fog. They hear a loud scream which scares and alerts them but nothing happens. As the fog clears, Marlow starts the ship and continue to move towards the station but about two hours later they are attacked from both sides of the narrow channels. A spear hits the helmsman in the pirate house with Marlow and kills him.