The novel begins in London on board the British ship 'Nellie' which is anchored in the River Thames.
An anonymous narrator listens to Marlow's tale of his journey up the Congo River together with the Director of Companies, the Accountant, and the Lawyer.
What we read is the narrator's recollections of Marlow's tale.
From a very young age Marlow was always fascinated with maps and in particular Africa with its large areas of unexplored territory. Through his aunt who has contacts with a Belgian Company, he is able to secure a job as a Steamboat Captain to ferry supplies on the River Congo.
He eventually arrives at the Company's Outer Station in the Congo.
He witnesses a scene of desolation, waste, brutality and chaos.
While the local natives suffer under the yoke of colonialism, the dominant whites enjoy a comfortable existence apart from the rigors of disease and hot climate.
At least they have plenty of food.
He has a discussion with the Accountant who is dressed immaculately and he first learns about their best Agent, Kurtz who is in charge of the Company's Inner Station. Kurtz obtains more quality ivory than all the other agents put together.
Marlow has to travel overland for some two hundred miles to reach the Company's Central Station where he will join his steamboat. On arrival he finds that it has been wrecked and has sunk. He will have to wait some time at the Central Station until the boat is salvaged and repaired.
Unlike the other whites Marlow enjoys hard work and he is determined to have his boat up and running as soon as possible. He was also encouraged to come here by his aunt to help civilize the natives and bring them salvation. He is also not concerned with...