Heart of Darkness is about imperialism.
A man named Charlie Marlow tells the story of
how he traveled into Africa and met a man named Kurtz,
who is working for a European trading company.
Kurtz went into the jungle to find ivory,
but also apparently with these ideas about bringing European civilization to Africans,
whom Europeans considered savages.
But Kurtz’s ideas failed.
And he became a savage himself.
The book begins with some men lazing around on the deck of a yacht,
waiting for the tide to go out on the Thames river.
One of the men, Charlie Marlow,
imagines what it was like when the first Romans explored the area,
some 1900 years earlier,
back when it was still untamed marshland that had yet to be civilized.
The thought leads him to recount his own story about
travelling to an uncivilized place.
Marlow has already been a sailor for years at this point,
and he gets a desire to go to Africa,
which had fascinated him when he was a boy
because it was largely unexplored.
Right away he finds a job with a European trading company.
He’s the captain of a steamboat that’s headed into the center of Africa,
where they export ivory.
Marlow leaves on a French steamer,
and heads down the African coast to the river,
where he’s supposed to meet his boat.
The trip takes more than 30 days,
and along the way, he sees a French gunboat,
firing blindly into the jungle,
apparently engaged in a war with the natives.
He says there seemed to be something insane about it.
Marlow arrives at the first company station.
All around, he sees men who have been taken captive and put to work.
The company calls them criminals, but they’re basically slaves.
Marlow is stuck at the station for another 10 days,
and he learns about Mr. Kurtz,
an agent for the company in the deepest part of the jungle.
He hears Kurtz as a remarkable man.
And that the higher ups in Europe have big plans for him.
It takes another 15 days of hiking through the jungle before
Marlow finally reaches the Central Station,
where he’s supposed to pick up his steamboat.
But when he gets there,
he finds out his steam boat has sunk.
The manager of the station estimates
it will take Marlow three months to fix it,
and urges Marlow to hurry.
They need to relieve the upriver stations,
and there have already been so many delays
that he doesn’t know who’s dead and who’s alive up there.
The manager also mentions Kurtz,
calling him the best agent they have.
He sends out more ivory then all the other agents combined.
In the months it takes him to fix the boat,
Marlow meets the station’s brick maker.
Though Marlow never sees evidence of any bricks being made in his time there,
the brick maker mentions Kurtz,
calling him a prodigy,
and an emissary of pity and science and progress.
One evening, Marlow overhears a conversation
between the station manager and another man.
This man, who happens to be the station manager’s uncle,
is the leader of the Eldorado exploring expedition.
A greedy mining group searching for anything valuable in the region.
Marlow only picks up snippets of their talk,
but he gathers that more than a year ago,
Kurtz sent a note to the manager asking to be left alone.
Since then, Kurtz has sent a large quantity of high-quality ivory
down the river in a fleet of canoes.
Marlow also hears them say that
a competitor has intruded on Kurtz’s district.
And they think he should be hanged to make an example of him.
Eventually, Marlow begins the long journey upriver.
The manager and some others go with him,
and they enlist 20 Africans who Marlow says they’re cannibals.
The manager favors one of them, a young boy.
During the trip, they pass tribal villages,
whose inhabitants shout and jump around when they see the boat.
Marlow says it thrilled him to think of the humanity
he shared with these prehistoric people.
He implies, in an arguably racist way,
that even though he’s civilized in European,
he could feel a primitive part in himself responding to their shouts,
and that everyone has this vestigial prehistoric instinct.
They come to a hut made of reeds on the riverbank,
and Marlow gets off the boat to explore.
There’s a wood pile out front,
and on top of the pile is a board with writing that
“这是给你准备的木材 快点过来吧 小心路”
says “Wood for you. Hurry up. Approach cautiously.”
In the hut, he finds a book
called “An Inquiry into some points of Seamanship”.
So Marlow surmises the resident must have been English.
The manager thinks it’s the intruder he heard about.
In the morning, a few days later,
a thick fog holds them up.
They can’t move because they can’t see anything,
and then they hear this loud scream,
but nothing happens,
and eventually the fog clears.
They’re attacked two hours later
when they enter a very narrow channel of the river.
The attackers fire arrows at them.
A spear hits the helmsman in the pilothouse with Marlow,
and the helmsman collapses and dies.
His blood gets all over Marlowe’s shoes.
Marlowe thinks that with such hostility around,
Kurtz must surely be dead.
And he laments that he’ll never get to hear Kurtz speak.
He thinks of Kurtz and his ideas,
and of report Kurtz wrote
for the International Society for the suppression of savage customs.
In the report, Kurtz wrote that the white man,
because he is so developed,
must appear to the savages like a supernatural being.
With that authority,
the white man can exert a power for good that is practically unbounded.
In other words, the white man can civilize them.
But Marlow says Kurtz wrote this before
he became unstable and started taking part in tribal rituals.
After that happened,
Kurtz added a note at the end of the report that said:
“Exterminate all the brutes.”
On the river, they come to a clearing.
And up on the slope, they can see a decaying building.
A man waves to them from the shore.
They finally reached the inner station,
two months after leaving the central station.
While the manager and some of the others hiked up to the station,
Marlow talks to this man.
The man is a Russian who works for a Dutch trading company,
and for two years he’d been on the river.
That’s how he met Kurtz.
He’s the intruder the manager worried about,
and the one who left the wood for them at the hut,
which used to be his house.
This Russian says the locals didn’t mean any harm by attacking.
They were afraid Kurtz would be taken from them.
He tells Marlow that Kurtz has enlarged his mind
and says Kurtz speaks eloquently about things like love.
Marlow learns that Kurtz has been raiding the nearby villages for ivory,
with the help of this tribe which treats him like a god.
While Marlow talked to the Russian,
he looks up at the station through binoculars.
And he realized that the tops of the fence posts are actually human heads.
Apparently Kurtz had lost any sense of restraint,
and had taken to mounting the heads of men
he considered rebels outside his station.
Marlow laughs when the Russian says these men were rebels,
and he recalls the slaves at the company station
that the company called criminals.
He thinks the wilderness has overtaken Kurtz,
and implies that Kurtz himself has become a savage.
The manager and the other men come back to the steamer carrying Kurtz,
who is extremely sick.
While Kurtz goes through his mail,
the manager motions to Marlow to leave
so he can speak in private with Kurtz.
Marlow hears Kurtz shouting about how they’re interrupting his plans,
and he swears he’ll return and carry out his ideas.
The manager comes out and tells Marlow that
Kurtz has done the company harm than good.
Because Kurtz’s method was so unsound.
The Russian approaches Marlow,
and asked him not to talk about anything
that will damage Kurtz’s reputation when they go back.
Marlow tells the Russian he should leave,
and warns him that the manager wanted to hang him.
And the Russian runs away that night.
Sometime after midnight,
Marlow awakes and finds Kurtz gone.
When he climbs onto the riverbank,
he can see the trail where Kurtz crawled on all fours through the grass,
heading toward a fire in the distance.
And he decides to circle around him and head him off.
Kurtz tells Marlow to leave and hide,
and Marlow realizes that if Kurtz just shouts loud enough for someone to hear,
he could be killed.
Kurtz tells him he had great plans
that he was on the threshold of great things,
但马洛威胁库尔兹 如果他不回到汽船上 他就要动手打他
but Marla threatens to beat him if he doesn’t return to the steamer.
At noon the next day, they leave with Kurtz.
And the people of the tribe gather on the riverbank,
and shout mournfully at Kurtz’s departure.
Kurtz grows weaker and weaker
as they head back down the river toward the sea.
One night Marlow enters his room,
and Kurt says he’s waiting to die.
While Marlow watches him,
a change comes over his face as if he were seeing something.
His last words are: “The horror! The horror!”
Shortly after the boy comes into the mess room,
where the men are eating dinner,
and announces that Kurtz is dead.
Marlow returns to Europe after that.
He says he couldn’t stand to be around ordinary people
who didn’t know the things he knew.
One day, an official from the company comes to visit Marlow.
Before Kurtz died, he gave Marlow all his papers and correspondence.
And the official says the company has the rights to the documents.
Marlow only gives him the report
for the International Society
for the suppression of savage customs,
with the last part about “Exterminating all the brutes” torn off.
But the official isn’t interested.
Two days later, a man saying he’s Kurtz’s cousin
comes to Marlowe’s door.
He and Marlow talked for a little,
and Marlow learns that Kurtz was a musician,
另外 他也是一个画家 记者
in addition, to being a painter and journalist.
Lastly, a journalist shows up,
who says he was a colleague of Kurtz’s.
He says Kurtz was an incredible speaker,
and should have been in politics,
leading some extremist party.
Marlow gives some Kurtz’s report.
Kurtz had mentioned his fiancé to Marlow,
and Marlow goes to see her,
and to give her the rest of Kurtz’s papers.
She guesses that Marlow must admired Kurtz,
as everyone did who knew him.
Kurtz was an example of goodness who drew toward him.
Before Marlow leaves,
Kurtz’s fiancé wants to know what his last words were.
Marlow lies, and says the last thing Curt said was her name.
Marlow’s story is over.
And with the tide out, they start to go up the Thames toward London.
The narrator says the Thames seems to lead
into the heart of an immense darkness,
suggesting that this civilized place isn’t far removed from the primitive jungle.
One point critics debate is whether Heart of Darkness is racist.
The black people in the book are hardly even people.
They’re a metaphor for savage primitive man.
But the book also points out how false
this European idea of civilizing Africa was.
The Europeans brutalized and enslaved the Africans.
In the end, nobody really looks good.
Except for maybe Marlow,
who stands by, commenting on what he sees.
For more information about Heart of Darkness,
请登录sparknotes.com网站 搜索Heart of Darkness
check out the Heart of Darkness SparkNote on sparknotes.com.
For a translation of the entire book into modern English,
go to No Fear Literature
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