More Than Just a Heart of Darkness
The Antichrist is quite a peculiar and mysterious character of the Bible, appearing at the end times of man as an asset of the Devil, tasked with leading many away from the light of God. Though referenced only a handful of times in the Bible, the speculation of this ominous creature is broad and extensive, including many writings of what he may be like, when he will arrive on Earth, and what he will do. Heart of Darkness yields itself to a wide variety of interpretations, one of which is interpreting the story to be that of the Antichrist due to the countless evil descriptions within this dark recounting of travelling to Africa.
The story depicts a man, Kurtz, who transcends those above him and has acquired such a following for his eloquence and hellish ways that his traits mirror those of the foretold Angel of Darkness. The nature of the characters in addition with the story as a whole present Heart of Darkness to merely be an interpretation of the Antichristr’s reign upon the Earth.
To begin, the setting and various locations are described in hellish or dark manners, suggesting the ominous presence of both the end times and the Antichrist. Many descriptions of Africa by Marlow reinforce its similarities to that of Hell, which is where the Antichrist dwells before entering Earth. In detailing the beginnings of his adventure, Marlow describes Africa by saying, It had become a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially resembling an immense snake uncoiled (Conrad 5-6). The key notion in this excerpt is that Marlow identifies Africa as a place of darkness. Much like the Christian interpretation of Hell, Africa in Heart of Darkness represents a gloomy and sinful location, separated from the light of God and purity. Thus, in Marlow describing Africa as dark, the reader can infer it symbolizes an evil location similar to that of Hell. To further this hellish imagery, Marlow notes the large river in Africa resembles a snake uncoiled. Snake imagery is commonplace in Biblical tales. The notion of a snake, particular in the story of Adam and Eve, represents temptation as a whole and Satan himself. The snake embodies the devil along with all that is dark in the world. The presence of a snake signifies temptation and unholiness are present Therefore, the inclusion of this snake-like river supplements attributes of Africa to being a location of sin and evil, which certainly mirrors that of Hell. Similarly, more direct notes by Marlow add to the interpretation of Africa as being Hell, which in turn supports Kurtz as being the Antichrist. Once first entering Africa, Marlow expresses he had stepped into the gloomy circle of inferno (Conrad 14). Keywords such as inferno repeat constantly throughout the text as Marlow attempts to describe his depressing location. The consistency of this fiery imagery is evident throughout all of Marlowr’s journey in Africa and increases as he inches closer and closer to Kurtz. Of course, Inferno is synonymous with Hell, furthering the proposition of Africa symbolizing Hell. While Africa may not be literal Hell, the presentation of the continent as such a malicious and wicked entity presents a proper setting where the unholy would dwell, indicating it would be a suitable location for the Antichrist once he is sent to control Earth. Likewise, the inclusion of entering this gloomy location presents Africa truly as an area different from the rest, requiring a physical crossing to experience its hellish effects. The overall depressing atmosphere of the location embodies the dark and dreary events which take place in this location. As Marlow seemingly wanders through his life and enters Africa, he physically comprehends the malevolence manifested within the nation, allowing the reader to interpret the location as dark and satanic. While possible to interpret these descriptions as a hyperbole to dramatize the anecdote which this whole tale is, biblical references to other locations in the story make a religious interpretation of the text more plausible and differentiate Europe from Africa much like Earth and Hell. Before travelling to Africa, Marlow was required to travel to Brussels to meet with a doctor and the ivory company which he sought employment from. He describes in his venture, I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulcher (Conrad 7). The term whited sepulcher is a direct reference to verse in the Bible, where it states, Woe unto you hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead menr’s bones, and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23. 27-28). Thus, the city of Brussels, and presumably the rest of Europe, is representative of mankind: sinful while attempting to be righteous. At the time of the Antichristr’s arrival, those who have lived sin-free lives will be sent to Heaven during the event that is known as Rapture, resulting in only those who have sinned to remain on Earth. Particularly, those who will remain on the planet deny their wrongdoings, much like how Marlow considers the people of Brussels to be. Thus, the titling of Brussels as such directly supports the overall religious interpretation of the book, making the notion of Kurtz as the Antichrist and Africa as Hell on Earth more plausible in Marlowr’s retelling of his adventure. Similarly, the description of the city also provides context to what Marlow serves in this story, being a misguided wanderer, which will be elaborated upon later in this essay. While many of these attributions to locations by Marlow may merely be an exaggeration, the evidence of choice words in characterizing Africa as a hellish location and Europe, through the city of Brussels, as a sinful Earth promote the interpretation of Kurtz being a portrayal of the Angel of Darkness.
With the setting now interpreted, a plethora or interactions and events swarming around Kurtz strongly mirror his character to that of the foretold Antichrist. One of the key attributes of the Antichrist is that he will be worshipped much like a God, as stated in the Bible, He sets himself up in Godr’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2, Thes 2:3-4). While Kurtz never explicitly describes himself as God, he certainly does amass followers who praise him; in Marlowr’s anecdote with his crew, he emphasizes, I became as much of a pretense as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims (Conrad 24). By using the term pilgrims to describe the followers of Kurtz, Marlow asserts a religious aspect of sorts to those who praise him. Like those who are pilgrims of God, these pilgrims in Heart of Darkness acknowledge Kurtz to be a superior being and place wholehearted faith in him. As such, Kurtz represents a false shepherd, who guides those away from the light of God, which is precisely what the Antichrist seeks to do. Likewise, Marlow describes his state as a pretense like the others who were bewitched. Such choice words yield to the idea Kurtzr’s influence and allure holds supernatural powers over the people of Earth and entices them away from God. Much like the Antichrist using his powers granted from Satan, Kurtzr’s amazing capabilities to fascinate people lead to those worshipping him, thus drawing a connection between Kurtz and the Antichrist. Another peculiar attribute of the Antichrist is that he, once on Earth, will influence a large portion of the worldr’s economy, as seen from Revelation 13:16-17 ([The Antichrist] forced all people to receive a mark so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark). Though Kurtz has not quite gotten there yet, he does contribute largely to the ivory company and is rapidly progressing up the totem pole of power. When the manager discusses with Marlow, he notes, Oh, he will go far, very far He will be a somebody in the administration before long (Conrad 16). Straightforwardly, this implies Kurtz is advancing in a capitalistic sense as he gains more control and power. If truly the Antichrist, his end goal would be to not stop until he controls the whole world economically, which, based on his overall demeanor in the text, is plausible. As well, the use of before long in the quote implies Kurtz is rapidly, and possibly unfathomably, acquiring power, which certainly supports the notion of his end goal being to control all of the world. Thus, Kurtzr’s involvement and status in the ivory trade provides a moderate correlation to him being the Antichrist, as they both seek economic power to control the world. Furthermore, a core feature of the Antichrist is the eloquence with which he speaks to oppose God, as noted in the Bible, And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies (Revelation 13:5). Similarly, one of Kurtzr’s defining characteristics is his sophisticated manner of speech that is seemingly enchanting. Near halfway through his story, Marlow adds about Kurtz, Of all his gifts the one that stood out was his ability to talk, his words the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness (Conrad 43). As being one of the defining features in the eyes of Marlow, Kurtzr’s eloquence supersedes that of a normal man. His speaking results in others succumbing to his beliefs and creates an allure for those around, much like the pilgrims and Marlow were drawn to Kurtz from his fabled speaking. Marlow notes he is unable to distinguish the origin from which Kurtzr’s capability of speech originates from As the Antichrist fools followers of God to believe him, Kurtz seemingly has fooled both Marlow and countless others as one cannot differentiate whether he is good or evil. Nothing is quite truer of the false shepherd than this notion of ambiguity, where one is unable to discern his intentions; thus, Kurtzr’s capability of speech, which includes the unknown origin of this gift, supports he is the Antichrist. Now a major fault one may consider in this interpretation is how possibly could Kurtz be the Antichrist if he clearly dies in the text, when a servant states to Marlow, Mistah Kurtz he dead (Conrad 64). However, the Antichrist indeed does die, only to be revived by Satan later on; the Bible states, his fatal wound was healed (Revelation 13:3). As Kurtz is torn away from the heart of darkness that is Africa, he becomes even more frail than he once was and dies. This can be seen as Kurtz is no longer shielded from the light of God as he is removed from the recesses of the jungle and is therefore killed for being the Antichrist. Likewise, the death of the Antichrist by the Lord is only temporary, as he later returns from the help of Satan; thus, the death of Kurtz does not hinder the viewpoint of him as the Antichrist, but rather mirrors and event that occurs to the Antichrist. With many more examples possible, the coinciding of characteristics and actions of Kurtz and the Antichrist strongly support Heart of Darkness as being a story of the Antichrist and possible end times.
In a similar fashion, the evolution of Marlowr’s character throughout the story presents evidence as Kurtz being the Antichrist by straying followers away from God and righteousness. Marlow serves to represent a wanderer in the text as he is unsure of what to do in life as many other people and can be influenced to partake in questionable activities; thus, he naively voyages to Africa in search for meaning and eventually discovers Kurtz, who makes him a worse person. Long before meeting Kurtz in the story, Marlow talks about himself and adds, you know I hate, detest and cant bear a lie (Conrad 23). However, Marlow intentionally lies to Kurtzr’s Intended at the end of the novella, where he informs her that Kurtzr’s last words were her name. Despite his once vehement hatred of lying, Marlow succumbs to the action with little remorse. This presents an evolution of the dynamic character of Charles Marlow as he changed due to his venture toward Kurtz. Marlow no longer considers lying to be an immoral action and, while only minor, has compromised moral integrity. Thus, the influence of Kurtz can be attributed to this weakening of character as Kurtz lures people, much like Marlow, to follow him rather than God (and simply put, Kurtz is not the most righteous of people). As Marlow and others seek meaning through Kurtz instead of a greater deity, they are merely fooled by the Antichrist and blindly become worse people due to the false shepherd. Kurtz leads people awry from their path to salvation and, therefore, serves as the Antichrist in Heart of Darkness.
Kurtzr’s mannerisms and actions present the case for him being the Antichrist. As a whole, Heart of Darkness then grows to present more than just a tale of Africa, but rather of a specific wanderer, Marlow, who was tricked by the supernatural capabilities of the Antichrist, Kurtz. Through is eloquence and other facets, drew in countless pilgrims to the dark land of Africa. Despite his moral stance, Marlow was incapable of avoiding the allure of Kurtz, which speaks volumes of human nature as a whole. Regardless of how high and mighty one may view their own self, everyone is vulnerable to the faults of human nature and being led astray by others. Thus, we as a society are far from perfect and while being misled by others, hopefully not the Antichrist, is counterproductive, it by no means eternally worsens anyone as they are always able to realize their fault and change. This ability to recover and adapt is one of the greatest attributes of human nature and negates many of the drawbacks of our civilization.
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