"Narrator" He is the fifth man "present" on board the Nellie. By listening to Marlow's story he undergoes a moral transformation. At the beginning he is very optimistic, but at the end the narrator, like Marlow, understands some of the brute realities in life. He doesn't really relate to the story, but instead he is converted by it. The narrator achieves what Marlow achieved-"knowledge of yourself."
"Charles Marlow" He is a thirty-two year old sailor, and the protagonist of the story as well. Marlow is a man of action, very intent on "doing his job well." He also realizes that sticking to the track means more than giving the appearance of fidelity. The sailor is angered by the cruelty of white colonialism. He yearns to meet Kurtz during the journey, but in his voyage, Marlow discovers his own capabilities for "losing the way."
"Mr. Kurtz" The product of Western European civilization, he enters the wilderness with the idea of uplifting the savages. Kurtz is an orator, writer, poet, musician, artist, politician, ivory procurer, and chief agent of the ivory complany's Inner station at Stanley Falls. Although he is a "genius," he is a man without basic integrity or any sense of social responsibility. He has no prepared himself inwardly for the primitive assault the jungle can encourage, so he responds to it with an unsuspected primitivism of his own. Through fear and adoration Kurtz wins control over the Africans, and eventually becomes a thief, murderer, raider, persecutor, and allows himself to be worshipped as god. Although he is "hollow at the core," he is able to understand the emptiness of his existence. "The horror! The horror!" is his dying summation of what he has become and what he might have been.
"The Manager" As company manager in the Central Station, he "managed" to survive the oppression in the wilderness. Although he is protrayed as a hollow man, he is jealous of Kurtz's success and suspicious of his humanitarianism. The Manager's machine-like personality is a contrast to Kurtz's idealism. He is indirectly and directly responsible for the moral and physical degradation of Kurtz.
"The Brickmaker" The manager's secretary, he is a man entirely capable of living a pointless existence. Proof of this is the fact that there isn't a single brick at the station for him to work with. This character conspires against Kurtz with the manager.
"The Pilgrims" Greedy employees of the company, they anonymously make their mock pilgrimage to the interior for the sole purpose of exploitation. Capable of murder, they are awful perversions of the colonial spirit. These depersonalized annoyances have even been referred to as the "black man's burden."
"The Manager's Uncle" He is described as "a butcher in a poor neighborhood," and is leading the "Eldorado Expedition" in search of plunder.
"The Manager's Boy" This character is used to show that "possesions" tend to take on the character of the owner. This "overfed young Negro from the coast" is shrewish and insolent. He is the one who announces conteptuously that Kurtz is dead.
"The Russian Harlequin" This man typifies the kind of person who, "with sheer fright," and "fine sentiments," always manages to be safe, regardless of the circumstances. He gives Marlow insight into the terrible nature of Kurtz's inner power. He is an ideal convert to Kurtz's doomed illusions because he is a clownish romantic. Besides being the obvious function of getting Marlow closer to the Central Station, he also serves as the innocent adventurer who is willing to risk his everything because he has no clue about what's at stake.
"Kurtz's Jungle Mistress" She is almost surreal, and appears whenever Kurtz is in danger of abandoning her. Conrad never fills in exacty what the relation is between Kurtz and the savage woman, but spares no details with her exquisite clothing. She is thoroughly devoted to her "White God."
"The Intended" The civilized antithesis to the savage woman, she is ironically dressed in mourning clothes when Marlow confronts her. Marlow decides against telling her the truth about Kurtz's last words; the illusion of Kurtz will sustain her even when he is dead.
"Marlow's Aunt" She gives Marlow the opportunity of voyage into the heart of darkness. She is representative of all women who, because they are "out of touch with teh truth," must be kept from the truth.
"The Helmsman" The swaggering, boastful man panics as he steers the riverboat. Marlow's shoes fill with the dying Helmsman's blood thus symbolizing a kinship between Marlow, who is preparing to leave the "track," and one who already has.
"The Cannibals" This primitive crew of Marlow's ship exhibits more self-restraint than the civilized "pilgrims." Even though they are starving, they refuse to eat their masters, which shows Marlow a kind of primitive honor.
"The Knitting Women" These women are symbolic guardians of the door of darkness, and act as company representatives endowed with the knowledge of fatefulness. Their mundane activity is decieving because of their actual "supernatural" function.
"The Company Doctor" Along with the knitters, this progessional dramatically foreshadows the threat of the heart of darkness. He measures Marlow's skull, but he is actually more interested in what is going to happent inside the skull.
"The Accountant" This man is admired by Marlow for doing his job properly and keping his books in such immaculate order. He is one of the few company administrators that commands Marlow's repect. However, this character also reveals the general hatred of white men towards black. He also confides his conviction that thiere is shady business at the Central Station.
"Fresleven" The ex-riverboat captain is replaced by Marlow. He has sadistically attacked an old Negro and has been killed by a tribal chieftan's son. He represents for Marlow the bizarre effects the jungle can have on sanity.
"The Swedish Captain" Marlow travels in the captain's steamer to the first company station. The captain indicates that strange things happen to people that go up the river.
"The Company Representative" He is a final emissary of company greed, determined to retrieve Kurtz's writings in the hope they will contain valuable geographical information about the jungle territory.
"Kurtz's cousin" He talks with Marlow about Kurtz's vast musical ability.
"The Journalist" He tells Marlow that Kurtz had unlimited political capabilities because of his forensic powers.
HEART OF DARKNESS HOMEPAGE: Intro, links to other sites or send mail
THEMES: Explore themes, motifs and symbols
VOCABULARY: Insight into vocab and Conrad's word choice.
SHVETA AND SARA'S ANALYSIS: Two AP Lit. students comment.
BIOGRAPHY: Discover the mind behind the Heart of Darkness
AP LIT. HOMEPAGE: Discover other literary analysis