The Powerful Voice of Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Essay

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The Powerful Voice of Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Many times, words by themselves do not convey an idea wholly or conceal it altogether. Instead, the voice carrying the words conveys the idea, lending shape and new meaning to the familiar syllables. Words resonate with prescribed meanings, whereas voice creates its own meaning and identity. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, voice comprises the primitive component of language, with words existing only as a secondary function of voice. Glimpsing a “primitive truth,” Kurtz’s voice and soul unite so that his knowledge speaks through his voice, rather than through his words. Alternately draining words of their meaning and filling them with new meaning, Kurtz’s voice contains the
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The accountant then trails off and begins to write again. Still governed by familiar language and voiceless words on paper, the accountant is unable to accurately describe Kurtz. Later, at Central Station, in the conversation between the nephew and uncle, Kurtz is again referred to, but not by name: “His name, you understand, had not been pronounced once. He was ‘that man’” (57). Although still inadequate, the phrase, “that man,” describes Kurtz much better than the accountant’s “Mister.” There is contempt and scorn that underlie these words, as if Kurtz himself has inspired them. At this point in the narrative, Marlow addresses his listeners: “He was just a word for me. I did not see the man in the name any more than you do. Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything?” (50) But Marlow appeals to the wrong sense. He should be asking, “Do you hear him?”

Kurtz’s voice finally becomes audible during the arrow attack on the boat. Among the wails and howls, Marlow realizes the authenticity and strength of Kurtz’s voice beneath the words:

I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, but as discoursing. I didn’t say to myself, “now I will never see him,” or “now I will never shake him by the hand,” but, “Now I will never hear him.” The man presented himself as a voice. (79)

Marlow imagines Kurtz singularly as a voice, devoid of actions. Yet, it is not that Marlow has not heard of Kurtz’s action. Marlow says,
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