Throughout the first two parts of Joseph Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness, the character Kurtz is built up to be this amazing and remarkable man. In the third book, however, we learn the truth about who Kurtz really is. Kurtz cries out in a whisper, "The horror! The horror!"(p. 86), and in only two words he manages to sum up the realization of all the horrors of his life during his time in the Congo.
Although Kurtz was alone, that loneliness helped him in the end. Through isolation, Kurtz was able to see who he really was. The main place where Kurtz finds himself is on his deathbed. Marlow says, ‘"But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude-and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating’"(Conrad 57). Marlow is saying that since Kurtz has been in the wilderness,
An interpretation of Marlow's changing feelings towards Kurtz is that he ends up being disgusted and
Look at the description of the oil painting by Kurtz of the blindfolded woman. Remember this image; it will have important connections at other points in the novel. What impression does the painting give of the character of Kurtz the painter? of the woman?
Kurtz’s lack of restraint and hunger for ivory consumes not only his soul but drains all of his physical existence. Upon seeing him, Marlow states, “I could see the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his arm waving (126)”. Conrad focuses on the physical features of Kurtz to display the madness that has consumed him. However, though Kurtz’s body is deteriorating, Kurtz’s mind continues to thrive. Conrad shows this in Marlow’s shock of witnessing a flame of passion that remains in Kurtz’s eyes as he converses without signs of exhaustion (126). Conrad continues to describe Kurtz as a shadow composed of tranquility and satisfaction. Conrad’s incorporation of this detail signifies the evil and greed that consumes Kurtz and is reflected through his physique. However, the power of Kurtz’s presence is personified through the action of his words. As the strength in his voice captures Marlow’s attention, it merely reflects his influence upon his followers. The power reflected through his voice displayed his confidence as well as his position as a leader for the natives. Hi demeanor displays an air of arrogance that makes others feel less equal to him. Those who follow him fear him, but also continue to respect him.
He is telling his story of his adventure to his job on the Congo, presenting the story inside of a story notion. In the reminiscent story he is telling, he talks about a man named Kurtz, the ivory manager at the company is going to work for in the Congo. He learned about the characteristics of Kurtz, which happened to be the opposite of his. At first, he is slight displeased and shows disgust towards the actions of the other workers’ at the company and Marlow; stopping in plot ever so often to regain his thoughts because it made him upset. However, as he continued deeper in the Congo, he starts to change into Kurtz making Kurtz and Marlow complex. The reader can not tell if they are different people or perhaps the same. Before this transformation, Marlow and Kurtz was already similar in a few ways. For example, Marlow and Kurtz both shared a certain amount of respect for the natives, Kurtz even had a mistress that was native. However, they may have a certain level of respect for them they both feel that they are savage like and they are not equal to the white men. This shows the white man’s burden, of the white man that feels the need to educate the natives. Marlow even ends up agreeing later on in the book that they should be
The final thing Kurtz had an affect on was the other characters development; specifically Marlow’s. Marlow spent his journey on the Congo listening to so many stories about Kurtz that he becomes obsessed with meeting him. At one point in the story, Marlow finds out there is a possibility that Kurtz is dead and he admits that, “For the moment that was the dominant thought. There was a sense of extreme disappointment, as though I had found out I had been striving after something altogether without a substance” (41). When Marlow finally meets Kurtz he is a little disappointed. He finds out that Kurtz actually isn’t as amazing as he expected. Marlow is thrown a back but doesn’t give up complete hope. When Kurtz dies, and says his final words, Marlow realizes that
Each character has a special role in the novel; Kurtz and Marlow are the most important, through these two characters we are able to see how good and evil balance each other out. Marlow?s journey into the heart of darkness can also be seen as a journey into his own soul. He was in search of the darkest of objects, the ivory. Unlike Kurtz, Marlow was able to withstand the darkness from controlling him. Kurtz soul became the darkness and caused him to forget everything else there was to life. His last words were not that of love but rather of hate, ?The horrors the horrors.?
The film also depicts the character of Kurtz in a very different light. Conrad builds up the appearance of Kurtz so much that his first scene is intentionally anti-climactic. He is discovered to be an ailing, elderly gentlemen, malnourished and on the verge of death. Marlow himself is simultaneously impressed with and disappointed by Kurtz. He enjoys listening to the old man’s philosophies, but he is let down by Kurtz’s lack of realistic thinking. He has clearly lost his mind, and with it, some of his credibility and mysticism.
Marlow realizes that only very near the time of death, does a person grasp the big picture. He describes Kurtz’s last moments "as though a veil had been rent” (Conrad, 239). Kurtz’s last "supreme moment of complete knowledge” (Conrad, 239), showed him how horrible the human soul really can be. Marlow can only speculate as to what Kurtz saw that caused him to exclaim "The horror! The horror," but later adds that "Since I peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare... it was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness... he had summed up,
Even from the beginning, Kurtz was made out to be an icon, an idol. To Marlow, he was the only thing that made sense in the company, on a journey, in a wilderness full of confusion. The
There are essentially very few differences between Marlow and Kurtz. A main and apparent difference between the two men is what they love. It is evident to all that Kurtz feels a deep affection towards ivory. An affection even more so than for his fiancée. Marlow describes is as, “The wilderness…had caressed him…it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flush, and sealed his soul to its own..” (Conrad 48). Marlow, on the other hand has an undying love of adventure and exploration. There is more than just that way do these two men differ from each other. At some point along his journey, Marlow finds himself idolizing and obsessing over Kurtz, just as the natives do. What is it about Kurtz that makes him so enchanting?
Marlow's journey leads him in an urgent search for Kurtz, the one man who can provide him with the truth about himself. Like Marlow, Kurtz came to the Congo in hopes to bring "light" and civilization to a backwards society. He is a highly-educated, refined gentlemen; yet, in the end, the brutal nature of the Congo forces him to resort to the life of a murderer and pilferer. The name Kurtz itself has symbolic meaning. "The physical shortness in Kurtz implies a shortness of character and spirit" (Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation). Marlow and Kurtz both symbolize the two conditions of human nature. "Kurtz represents what man could become if left to his own intrinsic devices outside protective society. Marlow represents a pure untainted civilized soul who has not been drawn to savagery by a dark, alienated jungle." (Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation). When the two come face to face, each man sees a reflection of what he might have become in the other. In Kurtz, Marlow sees the potential
Kurtz, more than anyone, was a signal of human potential to Marlow, the 'universal genius', the 'extraordinary man' found the limits of his potential much more easily in his isolation: "Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear - concentrated, it is true, upon himself with a horrible intensity, yet clear..."(Conrad 65). Kurtz's abilities had nothing to work on
In the book Heart of Darkness, a story within a story is being told. The character, Marlow, is telling the story of Kurtz to legitimize his role in the events that are taking place. A downside to this approach is that the reader only hears rumors and accounts about this mysterious figure, Kurtz, before actually meeting him. Kurtz remains an unknown and enigmatic character in Marlow's mind.