© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness


by Joseph Conrad

The Harlequin Timeline and Summary

  • At the Inner Station, Marlow meets the harlequin. He is struck by the harlequin’s singular appearance – a rather boyish face and aspects, but dressed in colorful rags.
  • The harlequin reassures Marlow that the native Africans did not really mean any harm by attacking the steamboat. He speaks rapidly and in incomprehensible fragments. Marlow gives him a cigarette to calm him down.
  • Then we learn his history. The harlequin is a Russian who ran away from a religious school to serve time with the British fleet.
  • Marlow returns the sailor’s book to him after learning that the hut discovered earlier was his. We discover that the "cipher" is actually Russian. The harlequin is delighted to have his book back.
  • The harlequin reveals that the native Africans do not want the white men to take Kurtz away from them. We learn that they worship Kurtz like a god and have accepted his reign of terror, even when he shows no mercy to "rebels," having them brutally executed and staking their skulls outside his hut.
  • It becomes evident that the harlequin worships Kurtz and is somewhat blinded by his adoration. He tries to justify Kurtz’s brutal actions. The harlequin also takes pride in the fact that he has nursed Kurtz through two bouts of illness.
  • He reveals that Kurtz spends a lot of time raiding villages to steal ivory. His obsession with ivory even leads him to threaten the harlequin with death if he doesn’t give up some ivory. The harlequin always yields to Kurtz.
  • After we see the warrior woman for the first time, we discover that the harlequin does not like her intimacy with Kurtz.
  • The harlequin hears of the manager’s intended hostility towards him (he wants to hang him) and decides to leave. But before he does, he reveals one final shocking fact: Kurtz ordered the attack on the steamboat as a defense mechanism. He, too, does not want to leave the interior.
  • The harlequin takes some spare items from the very generous Marlow and disappears into the wilderness.