The novelist Laurence Sterne once wrote, “No body, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a plaguing thing it is to have a man’s mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both obstinately pulling in a contrary direction at the same time.” In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad there are two characters whose minds are being torn in two. One of these characters is the mysterious Kurtz. Kurtz is the commander of a trading post for a corrupt company who trades ivory. While he works for corrupt company and does disgusting things, he also has a set of morals. Throughout the novel Kurtz shows the struggle between wanting and gaining personal wealth and being a decent human being.
Throughout the journey, Marlow continues to …show more content…
Not only does the company treat the Africans badly, they do not even see them as human. The company in England, as well as the much of Europe, has the idea that because the Africans are “less advanced”, they are not civilized. Thinking this allows for the mistreatment of the Africans. When Kurtz first arrived in Africa, he presumably thought the same as the other Englishmen. As Kurtz spends more time with the Africans, he begins to change his mindset about the African’s lifestyle and begins to accept it.
Over time, Kurtz comes to the realization that the Africans are truly humans and are civilized in their own way. Kurtz knows that the Africans are cannibals and that they act in ways that seem inhumane to Europeans, but he comes to the same realization that Marlow later does. Marlow learns that it is restraint that makes a person civil when he thinks, “why in the name of all gnawing devils of hunger they didn't go for us - they were thirty to five - and have a good tuck-in for once, amazes me now when I think of it"(400). Kurtz recognizes what makes people civil. It is not the clothes they wear or the customs they have, it is whether they can control themselves and have restraint when dealing with others. This influences Kurtz’ outlook on civilization and the Africans.
Once Kurtz recognized the Africans as humans and acknowledged their lifestyle as civilized, he began to
Click here to unlock this and over one million essaysGet Access
Kurtz's behavior in Africa. The Russian tells Marlow how he has nursed Kurtz back to health. Kurtz, however, has grown overcome with an obsession for ivory. The Russian tells us, "He [Kurtz] declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory ...because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, there was nothing on earth to prevent him from killing who he jolly well pleased." (p.72) Kurtz realizes that he has the power to kill who he wants to and take what he wants to and will do so since there is no one to overlook him and tell him not to. We learn that Kurtz has resorted to brutal raids of the country in search of ivory because of his hunger for it. Kurtz even planned an attack on Marlow's steamer so that Marlow and his crew would think he was dead. He did this so he would be able to carry out his plans for obtaining more ivory.
At the beginning of the journey, Kurtz was a good man who believed in bringing civilization to Africa. You see some of Kurtz’s good intentions in a lot of his writings. When Marlow was reading them, he said, "’…He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them (savages) in the
In Heart of Darkness, Conrad implies an individual develops a “need” to fulfill his or her “role” as the superior, through cultural values. During the South African wars, Europeans were granted the title as the “superior group” and praised higher than any other race (Reybrouck 109). Reybrouck says because of this, Kurtz developed a sense of self through the “great
From his first mention in the novel--“[Mr. Kurtz] is a very remarkable person”--it is made clear to readers that Kurtz is no ordinary member of the Company. Before narrator Marlow actually encounters this man, he is described as “exceptional”, “of the greatest importance to the Company”, and a “universal genius”. Readers learn that Kurtz came to Africa “equipped with moral ideas” and has brought in an unprecedented amount of ivory, which is the primary goal of the Company. Overall, Kurtz is a prodigy, expected to move up the Company hierarchy quickly, and becomes a sort of obsession for Marlow. Despite this, higher-ups in the Company seem to fear, and
Originally Kurtz had good intentions in journeying to the Congo. He honestly believed in using the ivory trade to better the social and economic aspects of the region, while simultaneously helping the natives to become civilized and part of the world which he thought was superior. Kurtz is only able to impress his own beliefs and ideals upon society and therefore help it however, by taking control of the people of the society. He establishes this control in the
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has allowed me to view the world through a multitude of new lenses. In seeing Kurtz and Marlow’s disintegration when removed from society’s watchful eye, I began to understand that all people have a streak of darkness in them under the right circumstances. While the narrator, and many readers at the time of this novella’s publication, believed that the African natives being colonized were “savages”, this book sheds light on the true brutes in this scenario: the thoughtless Europeans. The other complexity that I never truly understood until reading this book, is the idea that there is a single story told about Africans in Western literature. Africa is portrayed as weak, primitive, and impoverished in most books
In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad suggest that true human existence cannot prevail productively without the dynamics of society. Throughout numerous scenes in the novel, Conrad stresses the necessity of societal restraints through Kurtz’s inability to prosper as a human being when he is removed from the expectations of civilization. In the scene above, Marlow’s myopic observations of Kurtz reveals Conrad’s theme by illustrating the annihilation of Kurtz’s essential human characteristics as he descends into a barbaric lifestyle absent of the norms of society. Not only does the above scene support Conrad’s main theme, but it portrays his writing style, characterization of Marlow, and symbolism as used throughout the novel.
Kurtz was a centralized character in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness who began his expedition as a trading post commander and ivory collector. Before they met, Kurtz was described to Marlow as an idol by the Company’s chief accountant. “‘He is a very remarkable person.’ Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading post, a very important one, in the true ivory country, at ‘the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together…’” (Conrad 382). Kurtz is obviously very valued
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
First, the main event surrounding this novella is the colonization of Africa, and it holds a huge ethical issue. The purpose of the Europeans, like Marlow and Kurtz, coming to Africa was originally to civilize it and bring a positive impact to the continent. However, they soon came to realize that they could profit off of the land. So they began to use the land for trade and sold the natives as slaves (“Colonization Lecture”, 2015). The major ethical question here could be: is going against the original promise something the colonists should have done? At the time, the European’s morals could have been different than those people hold now. In fact, this is a decent example of cultural relativism. The Europeans took their culture as a standard of action. Since their background made it seem that colonialism was okay, they all seemed to act based on this idea. In modern times, however, it is not
Kurtz only means justice for himself; he does not consider justice for the Congolese from whom he took ivory "at very great personal risk" or for the Company by whom he is employed. However Kurtz meant it, Marlow, in repeating it, assuredly perceives the irony in the statement. Kurtz wanted justice in his possessions, but the jungle took its own kind of justice, by destroying him. Even more ironically, his death even renders irrelevant the human justice Kurtz desired. This begs
If you view Africa as a whole, both blacks and whites should be viewed the same. Mr. Kurtz, being an example, can also be viewed as a cannibal as it is strongly believed by the Company that he has become a savage, like the Africans. My point being that the blacks confining from eating humans, does not show Conrad’s as a racist but quite the contrary. Mr. Kurtz’s involvement of the African customs and beliefs
What makes Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness more than the run of the mill adventure tale, is its moral complexity. By the end of the novel, we find a protagonist who has immense appreciation for a man who lacks honest redemption, the mysterious Mr. Kurtz. It is the literal vivaciousness and unyielding spirit of this man, his pure intentionality, which Marlow finds so entrancing and which leaves the reader with larger questions regarding the human capacity. Therefore, Heart of Darkness is profoundly different given its character complexity and ambiguous narrative technique which ultimately deliver home a message of the complex motivations and capabilities of mankind.
Throughout the novella, it seems as if the narrator is describing the Africans as being almost human, but not quite. There seems to be a line drawn between African and European that is much thicker than country borders. In a description of a sick boy, the narrator says, “the man seemed young—almost a boy—but you know with them it’s hard to tell” (17 Norton). This statement may seem harmless, but it is completely unnecessary. It reveals how few interactions Marlow had with the Africans, and his use of the word “them” creates a ethnical barrier. Along with negative descriptions of Africans, Marlow also uses a great amount of racial slurs when speaking
Kurtz's whole orientation in the Congo was based on the quest for ever-increasing quantities of ivory. In this lay the weakness of Kurtz, for he wanted something, unlike his Russian companion. Kurtz's intelligence, his ideas, and his plans, were captive to his status as ivory gatherer. Kurtz's rejection of the validity of the 'unsound method' was not the problem. The problem with Kurtz, which Marlow does not realize, is not that Kurtz went native, but that he did not go native enough. In other words, Kurtz did not abandon the ivory-fetish. Kurtz's link with colonialism is therefore his undoing, even in the individual decay he undergoes.