Marlow stands on the Thames River and remarks that the land he and his comrades is standing on was once a place of darkness and an uncivilized wilderness. Through nostalgia he remembers an incident from his past when he commanded a steamboat on the Congo River... He talks about the Company's chief accountant who first mentions Kurtz to him... The accountant tells him that Kurtz supplies more ivory for the company than everyone else combined... Marlow's interests in Kurtz is perked... Marlow discovers that the steamer he is supposed to command has been destroyed in a wreck...

He meets the local manager who mentions Kurtz in conversation... He tells Marlow that Kurtz is ill and he must get to Kurtz swiftly and bring him back for medical treatment... Marlow speaks with a brick maker who admires and envies Kurtz... Marlow eavesdrops on a conversation between the manager and uncle. He learns that the manager resents Kurtz... Three months pass.

Marlow and a crew set sail towards Kurtz's location... Fifty miles before Kurtz's station, they discover a hut bearing wood for the steamboat and message to proceed with caution... Two days later they awaken to an attack by the savages. The helmsman is killed. Kurtz blows the steamboat whistle to frighten away the savages. Dumps dead helmsman's body overboard so cannibals don't get any ideas about eating him...

They arrive at the Inner Station. Greeted by a Russian that takes care of Kurtz... Through conversation with the Russian, they learn that Kurtz has not been the most upstanding and moral person. He's been abusive to the natives... Kurtz appears, carried on a stretcher... They carry Kurtz onboard the steamboat...

The manager tells Marlow he disapproves of Kurtz... The Russian makes a visit to Marlow, tells him that Kurtz ordered the attack on their vessel that killed their helmsman... Kurtz escapes and swims ashore. Marlow goes after him and cuts him off... They make a departure, savages show up, Marlow blows whistle and scares them away again... Journeying back down the river, Kurtz falls deathly ill...

On his deathbed, he screams "The horror, The horror" and dies... Marlow also becomes ill... Marlow recovers, journeys to Brussels... Pays a visit to Kurtz's fianc " ee... Tells her that Kurtz is dead. She is hysterical with grief...

She wants to know Kurtz's last words. Marlow can't bear to tell her what a rotten SOB her fianc " ee was, he lies and says his last word was the utterance of her name.