The heads-on-sticks symbolize Kurtz’s excessive brutality. The appearance of these heads-on-sticks is the graphic climax of the book, which comes conveniently close to the plot climax. Coincidence? Not if you’re into Conrad half as much as we are. We’ve seen some pretty horrible things up until this point, but the heads on sticks take the cake. What’s interesting here is that Marlow tells us "eh – no big deal." Effectively, anyway. As if to symbolize the way Marlow combats horror with humor, he tells us that these "black, dried, sunken" heads are "smiling continuously" in their "jocose dream of eternal slumber." Which, let’s face it, wouldn’t really be the language we would use to describe severed heads.