Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a dark and mysterious tale, with complex themes and characters. One of the major characters of this tale, Kurtz, does not appear until the near-end of the story. Yet, he has a significance presence and manages to remain in the mind of the reader. He influences the development of characters, and he appears to have many personalities, which confuses the reader about Kurtz’ true identity and another significance is that he is also involved in a minor conflict which is hidden within the story.
Marlow, the protagonists of Heart of Darkness, becomes most influenced by Kurtz through the various stories he hears about him, which eventually leads Marlow to be affiliated with him. Marlow first hears of Kurtz when speaking to the chief accountant, who refers to Kurtz as a very remarkable man. During this time, Marlow’s interest in Kurtz grows, and from this point, continues to have conversations about him with several people – the general manager and the brick maker. The general manager sees Kurtz as an exceptional man, of the greatest importance to the company. Soon, Marlow becomes obsessed with Kurtz, yet denies it: “now and then I would give some thought to Kurtz. I wasn’t very interested in him. No. Still, I was curious to see whether this man…would climb to the top after all and how he would set about his workther.”(Conrad 69) Unfortunately for Marlow, allying himself with Kurtz makes him disliked by the company’s representatives. When Marlow calls Kurtz a remarkable man, the general manager returns with he was and turns his back on Marlow. Furthermore, by becoming intrigued with Kurtz; he focuses his hopes on a man that could be nothing like the great legends that surround him. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz he realizes the wilderness has taken effect on Kurtz, and that as a consequence of following Kurtz, it has affected him also, “I had – for my sins, I suppose – to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one’s belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself too. I saw it, – I heard it.”(Conrad 112) Even after Kurtz’ death, Marlow is still haunted by him.
In addition, the mystery of Kurtz is his identity. Even though he only appears for a brief moment in the story, we do not really know who is the real Kurtz is. Every person Marlow approaches has a different perception of him. To most people at the company, he is remarkable, especially to the Russian trader. Through hi swords, it is obvious that he is like a disciple of Kurtz’. Although Kurtz once tried to shoot the Russian, the Russian did not leave him and stayed by his side. “I gave him the ivory. What did I care! But I didn’t clear out. No, no. I couldn’t leave him!”(Conrad 101) Even when Marlow accuses Kurtz of being mad, the Russian denies it, which shows his dedication. But, when Marlow returns to Brussels after Kurtz’ death, each person he talks to has a completely contrasting view of Kurtz. His cousin calls him a musician, and the journalist says “He could have been a splendid leader of an extreme party.”(Conrad 119) Even Marlow himself does not know the true Kurtz. The only side Marlow observes is the dark side, the side that has turned evil, selfish and most of all, mad.
Moreover, Kurtz’ power is highly influential, and the majority of the company are afraid of him. The power that Kurtz has at the company is envied by many, and they are secretly planning to take over. The delay that Marlow has in his journey to Kurtz is intentional. When the manager and the brick maker find out that Marlow’s steamer has broken down, the manager reveals that he would like to take advantage of this unfortunate accident. When Marlow realizes that they are conspiring, he uses Kurtz’ power to his advantage. Marlow tells the brick maker, who is upset about Kurtz’ arrival because he has planned to be assistant manager, that he is allied with Kurtz and has influence in Europe. This brings the brick maker to help Marlow receive the rivets that he demands for all because he is forced to believe that Kurtz is behind Marlow.
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