Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" explores two characters, Marlow and Kurtz, and uses their personification to explain what he believes to be the very essence of human nature. .
To understand what Conrad is trying to tell us, we must first understand the characters he has created. We begin the story with Marlow telling us about his encounter with Kurtz through a narrator. The benefit to this is that the reader is allowed a third party view of Marlow. We are told that Marlow is wandering seaman, who was not typical of the common dormant seaman life. He comes from a "civilized" England where people are educated and still have their four o"clock tea.
It is when Marlow enters the native African land that Conrad starts to develop his feelings on human nature. I believe human nature is best explored in situations where man exists in his most primitive animal sense. How else can we truly see how man exists naturally? Conrad does this by bringing Marlow to an uncivilized Africa. Here the natives are slaves. But it is more than that. They are uneducated, know nothing about the advancements elsewhere, and are fearful like animals. As an example to show their fear Marlow says, "I verily believe they took these sticks to bed with them" (100), meaning the stakes that they always carried with them. .
Marlow is portrayed as someone very compassionate. On his first meeting with the natives he finds himself, next to one, against a tree. "I found nothing else to do but to offer him one of my good Swede's ship biscuits I had in my pocket" (88). This might seem trivial, but in a land of men who have turned cannibal in response to a lack of food, this was a gracious gesture. .
He was close with his crew. He befriended the foreman and the mechanics that were disliked by the others. At the death of his helmsman he was also upset. "It was a kind of partnership. He steered for me - I had to look after him, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtle bond had been created" (134).