The Value Of Sacrifice In “Heart Of Darkness” By Joseph Conrad

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Value of Sacrifice

What you value can often be determined by what you are willing to sacrifice. People may believe that they will honor what they value, but that usually only lasts until we are faced with benefits from sacrificing. Many people can say they have “good values” but the truth is that actions speak louder than words.

Upon reading, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, I knew instantly what I wanted to write about. Mr. Kurtz is a star agent in the Company who was once thought of as a normal man with good intentions. Kurtz is an ivory trader in the heart of Africa. He brings in more ivory than all the other stations combined, making him sort of a legend among the other traders. He is spoken about in high regards and viewed in almost god-like fashion. In order to achieve that status, one would question what he had to sacrifice to get there? The answer would be that he sacrificed one of the most sacred values that any human being should have, morals. Kurtz, in many ways, could be considered greedy. He went into Africa with high hopes and ambitions, but the savagery of the land took its toll on him. His desire for ivory drives him to make alliances and enemies among the native Africans, and together, they raided village after village in search of ivory. He gave up his morals in order to secure his spot as a top trader.

Kurtz’s belief that he was a God of sorts, started after the following of the African natives formed. Africa was behind on the times, so when Kurtz came from Europe, he brought new technologies and advances with him. This made the natives view him as a God, and they were willing to protect and help him. This was a major factor in how he became the highest earning ivory trader. He used the kindness of the natives in order to advance himself in life, and to earn more money for himself. The Harlequin had told Marlow, “You can’t judge Kurtz as you would an ordinary man”. (56) This just proves that Kurtz was viewed as more than an “ordinary man”, and he placed himself above the rest.

Marlow appears to be more like the old Kurtz. The man Kurtz was before he became immoral and savage. Marlow goes to Africa with the dream of piloting a boat, but he sees how savage Africa is. Unlike Kurtz, he does not sacrifice his values and manages to keep civilized throughout the novel. In the beginning of Kurtz’s drive for power, he had simply created a persona of this “god like” person. However, as time went on, this persona of his had slowly become his true self. It shows that if you let something grab a hold of you, it can take over your life. The worst part about it, is that Kurtz does not see anything wrong with what he is doing. He is completely blind to the fact that he is power and money hungry, and is taking advantage of the African natives. It is not until the end of the novel, when he is dying on his deathbed, that he realizes what he has done. That is why he yells out “The horrors! The horrors!” (69) He sacrificed one of the most basic human values, his morals, to advance himself and gain power. Even the people around him were blind to that fact, so in a way, they gave up their morals as well.

Kurtz went to Africa with somewhat good intentions, and had dreams of becoming this great ivory trader. His dreams came true, but at expense. Marlow was able to keep civilized throughout his journey, so it shows that keeping civil and staying true to your values can be done. However, Kurtz sacrificed them because it was the easy thing to do, and he let greed and power corrupt him as a person.

Sources:

  1. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Global Classics, 2014.
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