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"But I am of course aware that next day the pilgrims buried something in a muddy hole.
And then they very nearly buried me." (3.46-47)
Marlow is almost fated to die alongside Kurtz. This is not remarkable per se. Marlow and Kurtz’s lives paralleled each other – it should come as no surprise that they almost share the same death.
"I remained to dream the nightmare out to the end, and to show my loyalty to Kurtz once more. Destiny. My destiny! Droll thing life is – that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself – that comes too late – a crop of unextinguishable regrets." (3.48)
Marlow shows contempt for Fate. He cannot fathom it or its purpose. But he does learn from it; he learns of his deepest self but is also left with "a crop of unextinguishable regrets." In Heart of Darkness, Fate does not seem to have a happy ending for anyone.
And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, ‘followed the sea’ with reverence and affection, that to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service, crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea. It had known and served all the men of whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir John Franklin, knights all, titled and untitled - the great knights-errant of the sea. It had borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashing in the night of time, from the Golden Hind returning with her rotund flanks full of treasure, to be visited by the Queen's Highness and thus pass out of the gigantic tale, to the Erebus and Terror, bound on other conquests – and that never returned. It had known the ships and the men. (1.6)
Marlow’s love for the sea turns his eyes to its past and glorious history. He recounts all the pioneers of the Thames River, all commissioned to exploration by the crown. It is obvious from Marlow’s tone that he reveres these historical figures.