Mr. Kurtz Timeline and Summary
- We first hear about Kurtz when the accountant mentions that Marlow will surely meet Kurtz if is he headed into the interior. When Marlow inquires about Kurtz, he learns that he is a top agent stationed in the interior, in "true ivory country," and that he pumps out more ivory than all the other stations combined.
- At the Central Station, the manager spreads the news that Mr. Kurtz is very ill.
- When Marlow asks the brickmaker about Kurtz, he gets a sarcastic answer because the brickmaker is jealous of Kurtz’s success.
- When the brickmaker comes back to Marlow to suck up, Marlow learns that Kurtz had powerful connections with the Company just as Marlow himself does.
- At the end of the first chapter, Marlow has begun identifying with and admiring Kurtz.
- Marlow overhears the manager and his uncle hoping that sickness or the environment, or possibly both will kill Kurtz for them, so that they can advance in the Company. They also have suspicions that Kurtz is acquiring his sinful quantities of ivory in dishonest ways.
- All these conversations only increase Kurtz’s reputation and esteem in Marlow’s eyes.
- When Marlow finally reaches the Inner Station, he meets Kurtz when a group of native Africans bears him down in a stretcher. He is emaciated and frail; only his voice rings strongly.
- Kurtz has a private interview with the manager and they argue. Marlow takes Kurtz’s side.
- The evening before they plan to depart, Kurtz makes his escape. Or his pathetic attempt to escape. Being seriously sick, he cannot actually walk – he must crawl on all fours into the wilderness. It doesn’t take Marlow long to find him.
- Kurtz talks to Marlow extensively for the first time, demonstrating his madness. He orders Marlow to go and hide himself – though it is unclear whether he means from the native Africans or from the pilgrims.
- Despite Marlow’s threats to bring Kurtz back forcefully, Kurtz ignores him and raves on about how great his plans were and how they have now been destroyed by a pitiful man – the manager. During their conversation, Marlow finally realizes Kurtz’s mind has been warped by the interior and that he has gone mad. He carries back the wasted Kurtz, who is light as a child..
- When they are about to leave on the steamboat, the warrior woman breaks through and gestures to Kurtz. Though nobody else understands the meaning, Kurtz does and refuses to share it with anybody.
- A few days later, Kurtz’s madness and illness worsens. He goes blind, saying he cannot see the light when he is but a few feet from a patch of sunlight. He raves unintelligibly. In his last moments, his face undergoes some fascinating (to Marlow) changes – first pride, then power, and finally despair. His last words, uttered in some vision before his death, are "The horror! The horror!"
- In the last scene of the book, Marlow misrepresents (it’s a kind word for lying, isn’t it?) these final words to Kurtz’s Intended. He tells her that Kurtz said her name on his deathbed.
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