Heart Of Darkness Essay, Research Paper
?Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision-he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: The horror! The horror!?What horror is Kurtz recounting as his final words? Truths lie inside the inner soul of all human beings, it is just a matter of when and where they will come out. Kurtz choose to let his be known as his passing words. An epiphany, a passing glimpse, the realization of what he has created and destroyed, willingly, or blindly going about hacking through the jungle blindfolded, searching for something of extrinsic importance. The narrator of Heart of Darkness never lets the reader know what Kurtz was speaking about. I believe Conrad wanted his audience to judge for themselves the importance of Kurtz?s words. Finding literal, as well as deeper meanings, in the novel becomes very apparent when basing the context of Kurtz?s words from a thematic standpoint. His word?s can be broken down on three levels: the first, dealing with the obvious literally sense of horror representing all the dead Africans, who died at the hands of the Kurtz in his lusty quest for ivory; the second, delves into an important theme relating to the book, which is human savagery, Kurtz must have realized he had become what he hated most; Lastly, on a abstract level, his finally word?s would have represented the society of European Imperialism that had molded Kurtz and formed him into a by-product of the mixture, which culminated together to create colonial, imperialistic attitudes.
It is shear terror to imagine the magnitude of the scale on which atrocities of death, murder, and genocide had taken place against the Africans. Death is a very silent, dirty scene. Nobody has ever been able to recount their tale of death, for no doorway has been found that any person can use to return. Kurtz?s inner station was, responsible for gathering more ivory than all the other stations combined. This task, viewed on its own merits, is a tremendous accomplishment, showing Kurtz?s fortitude in achieving his goal. When the reader sees what methods are used to gather the ivory, the true nature of ?the real cost? becomes apparent. The Africans were used as slaves, Kurtz?s own tribal followers, who obeyed each and every command he gave them, no matter how ridiculous. If the task given by Kurtz was to die, the Africans died; if the task was to wage war against other tribal groups, so as to enlarge ivory hunting grounds, the Africans killed; if the task was to fend off approaching Europeans, the Africans followed this and every other order with draconian obedience. The savagery, when imagining those millions of Africans murdered all for the sake of ivory tusks, is too disheartening for the uninitiated person. Some person, with the beast already inside their soul, could approach this task with no qualms about any methods used against fellow humans. Kurtz had this characteristic. He had gotten off the boat and into the jungle, fully. He was no longer apart of this world, but still in it. The nature of savagery had taken his whole being over; infact, any embodiment of European civilization had continued to fall overboard the farther down the river he journeyed. The intricate woven fabric, with each tiny fiber being a thread of knowledge, experience, and lessons learned make up the blanket of our personality. Kurtz had chosen to take a very sharp pair of scissors and cut away all that warmth this personality blanket provides. By discarding the very nature of his being this left him hollow, a creature with a threaded existence, tattered and worn, he came apart at the seams. He could no longer feel the same emotion, or emphasize with his fellow man. Therefore, the senseless violence he perpetuated, did not bother him, why would it? He was the African?s God, able to do as he pleased, he, and he alone, decided who shall live and who shall die. A variable monster, with his sole purpose of existence being nothing more than fulfilling his lusty savage desire. Kurtz was now primitive man, with all the trappings of an unthinking beast. Although, with all the savagery that Kurtz displayed, he still had a little decency left in him. The horror! The horror! is a reflection of this belief. I can imagine a man at the throws of death, seeing his life flash before his eyes, all the madness, insanity, and grotesque horror had now come thundering down, like a bolt of lightning, jolting his conscience into a harsh reality. It was too late, and he knew that. It is actually quite sad, only at the end did Kurtz realize his quest for glory, power, and lusty fulfillment of savagery was all for not. The absolute destitute had consumed him entirely.
What does it mean to be savage? Is this some sort of jungle myth? Does this only happen in the deepest reaches of the African jungle? Can this happen to an ordinary man in the modern world? All these questions, I think were answered in Heart of Darkness. The true nature of humanity is disguised in a fa?ade of colourful clothing and pomp societal values. What with laws and court systems, it is no wonder modern day man shows any signs of his ancient ancestors. Why should he? There is no need anymore for ?barbaric? forms of behaviour, the type associated today with a less cultured society. With a butcher, and brickmaker on every corner, people no longer need to hunt and gather for the staples of their diets. Everything a person needs in their life is provided for them, through specialized tasks each human is assigned. Similarly, in the beginnings of American?s industrialization, each farm community provided every basic need, more or less on each homestead. Capitalists, had to wean the rural population into accepting the factory work, and specialized products, which most certainly, made life ?better?. Humans are a very illustrious species, we learn to adapt and survive. The same holds true for our nature, Darwin?s theory of evolution, allows for individuals not able to adapt, to perish, and those left remaining to hold the characteristics necessary for integration with their physical surroundings. However, there is one problem with Darwin?s theory! Darwin did not take into account the basic feature that sets species groups apart from one another, and allows the dominant species to thrive. This comes in the form of a physical feature; for example, a tiger?s strength, a cheetah?s speed, a bear?s claws, etc. Humans, have the brain. When this characteristic was developed throughout the eons of evolution, it broke all the existing laws of nature, and humans formed new rules to suit their needs. One thing that remained, however, was our ancestral behaviours. Like a descendent beckoning at the knell of the bell, our savage inclinations stayed with us physically. The region of our brain that controls our most primitive of emotions, is called the hippomas campus. All our emotions such as hate, fear, anger, happiness, sorrow, and the fight or flight mechanism, is located in this forgotten region. Scientists estimate, that within the next 100 000 years, humans will no longer have this portion of the brain, but for now we still carry the first man within all of us. Kurtz was no exception, he was actually the rule. Symbolically, Kurtz getting of the boat showed a point of no return, where he had managed to take the first steps back to his primitive nature. The setting in the book was a good choice because many archeologists believed that the forerunners of homosapiens came out of Africa. Through out the book, Marlow?s accounts of how he was like a traveler through time, in a place forgotten many centuries ago, emphasized the imagery of the primitive state. The choice of Kurtz to live with the African, sleep with their women, eat what foods they did, speak their language, and lastly, and most importantly, shed any shred of civilized European behaviour, shows just how much of a savage Kurtz had become. The toll of this savagery showed on Kurtz: his hair had fallen out, and he was slowly dying. No longer could Kurtz be considered a European, he had crossed into the limbo of obscurity; similarly, we see the fireman on the steamboat cross over to the other side, this time away from savagery. Hence forth, Kurtz?s primitive emotions will lead him on his path of destruction and dismay; furthermore, darkening his path and filling the way with shadowy memories of a time long past. In an expository Kurtz had presented to the company, it had outlined his belief that all the Africans should be terminated, ?exterminate the brutes?, were his own words. Kurtz could be considered a hypocrite because he became what he hated most in humanity. He thought about savagery too hard, devoted too much of his life to exterminating it, eventually, it consumed his whole being, and made him into a savage and prisoner of his own history.
The study of European Imperialism/Colonialism on the African continent can be viewed through the eyes of a businessperson. The rational is perfect for hiding any forming of savagery, and more importantly, any events of genocide as a result of this savagery. Now, consider for a minute a business management team acquiring a new company; whether it is through mergers, or hostile takeovers, this business now belongs to this highly profitable organization. The main objective, or goal of any organization is to make money, the Imperialistic Europeans lived by this philosophy. Upon landing in African, the first thing that caught the European?s materialistic eye, were all the natural resources. The flowing rivers coming off of giant mountains, filled with thousands of years worth of sediment rock, the vast tracks of land, the wildlife, the minerals that lay beneath this precious jewel, and the labour force already in place to provide physical removal of these valued goods. However, from a European standpoint, the company was in need of restructuring. The head management would have to go. So, therefore it was only natural that many African chieftains were ?let go? to make room for the white CEO. Benefits packages would have to be severely cut back: eating would be reduced to once a day, and only if the workers worked extra hard, sleeping could be done on the work sight, however, visitation rights to other family members were plentiful, the Africans could always sees other family quite frequently, that is because they would be working along side them. Now and again, union groups among different African tribes would form their earnest belief being that workers rights fell upon deaf ears of their management. Corporate security, in the form of national armies would be sent out to disperse these ?illegal? union groups. Vacation pay could not be afforded, new management decided those 24/hour workdays were acceptable human rights standards at the time. Come to think of it the only time the Africans got to take their breaks was when they died. I guess production was a little too vigorous for the old chaps. Wages would also have to be reduced. The economic philosophy at the time was Mercantilism, paying the workers would not be a viable option if the company were to continue to compete in such a fierce market. There was not really any informal organizational structure, mainly because slaves really did not have any rights; the UN human rights convention would not come along for another 100 years, too bad. The company never had staff shortages, but turnover was a problem with all the labour force having to be replaced annually. Overhead was kept to a minimum thanks to new management strategies, if the local populations did not want to purchase the company?s finished products, their land was taken from them, and they became debtors if they wanted to remain on their land. Ah Yes, this wonderful company managed to turn quite the profit: by keeping costs low and selling at a high price, the economics were entirely in the hands of the company. Now, I know why they the phrase ?business can be cutthroat? is used; probably because the Europeans would have done just that if their products did not move. The focus of profit superseded the focus on humanitarian value, and worker?s rights, leaving the company with a tattered image and large coffers, but at what price?
Kurtz?s last words, was the summarization of Conrad?s whole critique on European Imperialism/Colonialism. My belief is Kurtz represented all that is European in nature, showed his true colours, as a snake sheds his skin during a time of change. Meaning, when Kurtz reverted back into a savage state the real nature of his person, personified as the European philosophy towards their true mission in African came out. The white sepulchre was destroyed, remaining was what was hidden previously: decay of a rotten society, with hollow values, and darkness that emulated in the light that blocked out all the rays of sun in the African?s lives.