Heart of Darkness

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The Russian Trader Character Analysis

A wanderer and trader who wears a multi-colored patched jacket that makes him look like a harlequin (a jester). Through some miraculous stroke of luck, he has ended up alone in the jungle along the Congo and survived. He is naïve and innocent and believes Kurtz is a great man beyond any conventional morality. He even nursed Kurtz back to health on a number of occasions though Kurtz once threatened to shoot him. Of all the white men in the Congo, only the Russian refrains from trying to assert control over the jungle.

The Russian Trader Quotes in Heart of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness quotes below are all either spoken by The Russian Trader or refer to The Russian Trader. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Heart of Darkness published in 1990.
Part 2 Quotes
"I tell you," he cried, "this man has enlarged my mind."
Related Characters: The Russian Trader (speaker), Kurtz
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Marlow meets the Harlequin, a mislaid Russian sailor, as he arrives at the Inner Station. Whereas Marlow has become increasingly disillusioned with Kurtz, the Harlequin is still clearly under his spell and talks extensively about his many merits.

The phrase “enlarged my mind” stresses, in particular, the deified portrayal of Kurtz. He is often presented as a god-like figure, and, indeed, his treatise notes that to best accomplish their colonial goals, the Europeans should appear before the “natives” as gods. The Harlequin’s phrase implies that Kurtz reaches beyond human realms and then transmits that knowledge back to enlarge the minds of others. In this view, his virtuosic writing and speech are not masks, but rather ways to convey saintly messages.

Yet Conrad sets up the Harlequin’s character to seem ridiculous from the start. He sports flamboyant attire and has done only fickle work for a variety of colonial groups. And, having already seen the terrible postscript about exterminating the brutes, the reader is well primed to be skeptical of anyone overly complimentary of Kurtz. The passage does not serve to redeem Kurtz in Marlow’s eyes, but rather to show just how effective his lies have been in manipulating both the Congolese and Europeans.

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The Russian Trader Character Timeline in Heart of Darkness

The timeline below shows where the character The Russian Trader appears in Heart of Darkness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2
Colonialism Theme Icon
...on board and speaks with Marlow. The man explains that he's a twenty-five year old Russian sailor who deserted and through a series of adventures working for various colonial powers ended... (full context)
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
When the Russian says that the hut with the stacked wood was his old house, Marlow returns the... (full context)
Part 3
Colonialism Theme Icon
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
Marlow stares at the Russian in astonishment, and thinks that the Russian "surely wants nothing from the wilderness but space... (full context)
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the Russian begs Marlow to take Kurtz away quickly. He tells of his first meeting with Kurtz,... (full context)
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
Kurtz, the Russian says, is a god to the local tribesman, who adore him. They help him as... (full context)
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
The Russian says that Kurtz can't be judged as other men are. He adds that Kurtz "suffered... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
The Russian mentions that when the native chiefs came to see Kurtz they crawled up to him.... (full context)
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
The Russian can't understand Marlow's scorn at Kurtz's savage actions. He says that the Company abandoned Kurtz,... (full context)
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
...like "an animated image of death carved out of ivory." The natives swarm forward. The Russian whispers to Marlow that if Kurtz says the word, they'll all be killed. Kurtz speaks... (full context)
The Hollowness of Civilization Theme Icon
The Lack of Truth Theme Icon
...next to the ship a "savage and superb" African woman paces back and forth. The Russian's comments about her imply that she was Kurtz's mistress. (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
When Marlow is alone, the Russian approaches. He has decided to slip away, correctly sensing that he's in danger from the... (full context)