Limited Restraint in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Essay

576 Words3 Pages
People’s restraint can either save their lives or put them at great risk of dying. A person’s ability to restrain themself plays an important role when exploring the unknown. In the novel, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, restraint plays a major role throughout the novel. Restraint threads its way through the three parts of Heart of Darkness; people who have been in chaos learn restraint, whereas people who have been in civilization cannot control themselves. Fresleven, the cannibals, the helmsman, and Kurtz all show restraint or the loss of restraint in the novel.
Marlow’s story begins with him telling the story of Fresleven, a European who lost restraint and could not control himself. Fresleven, being born into civilization, never
…show more content…
The helmsman died because he could not restrain himself when the natives attacked: “Poor fool! If he had only left that shutter alone, he had no restraint, no restraint- just like Kurtz” (46). Marlow notices the lack of restraint the helmsman had. If he restrained himself he could have been alive. Conrad wanted to show how restraint can be influenced by civilization. The helmsman became too close to civilization, which causes a lack of restraint.
Over time, Kurtz slowly lost his restraint due to being in an uncivilized habitat. Kurtz first wanted to make profit for the company and allowed himself to be controlled by ivory. The manager says: “Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him- some small matter, which when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence” (53). Kurtz’s desires caused him to lose control and lessen his grip on reality. Marlow sees that Kurtz has no restraint left in him: “He struggled with himself, too. I saw it, I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself” (61). Kurtz gives up by the end of the book. He has no more left to give, and has allowed himself to succumb to the chaos that engulfs him. The disorder and confusion of Africa has corroded Kurtz and has caused him to lose restraint.
Joseph Conrad shows how easily people can lose their restraint. Only
Get Access