Marlow And Kurtz As Doubles Essay, Research Paper
Marlow and Kurtz as Doubles in Heart of Darkness
In Joseph Conrad s Heart of Darkness, Marlow and Kurtz can be seen as a set of psychological doubles. Kurtz is what Marlow could have become if confronted with the same choices. Although Marlow could have easily succumbed to the darkness, he does not become like Kurtz because of what he sees when he gets to Africa. Marlow sees and hears of the harsh treatment forced upon the natives by the Europeans. Marlow understands that the Europeans are only in Africa for profit and to civilize the natives.
Marlow begins his journey in the Congo hoping to find great adventure. Marlow, like Kurtz, enters the Congo with good intentions Marlow calls the Congo the biggest, the most blank, so to speak place on the map, but he is remarkably drawn to it (1968). When Marlow first arrives in Africa he sees first hand the harsh treatment the Europeans have forced upon the natives. Marlow is walking to the company station and sees a line of chained natives and remarks, I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots tied in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together [ ] (1968). It finally becomes clear to Marlow what the Europeans are doing in Africa when he remarks:
I ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but, by all stars! These were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils that swayed and drove men-men I tell you. But as I stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak eyed of a rapacious and pitiless folly. How insidious he could be too, I was only to find out several months later (1968).
Here Marlow calls the Europeans devils and mentions that he will soon meet another devil- Kurtz. This quote helps explain how the Europeans are in Africa only for imperialistic reasons. The devils that Marlow speaks about are in reference to the Europeans, in that Europeans in Africa produce devils, not goodness.
Marlow first learns of Kurtz thanks to the Accountant who calls him a first class agent and a remarkable person (1970). Although Marlow calls Kurtz the devil, he is thoroughly intrigued by Kurtz. Marlow says he was curious to see if this man, who had come out here equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all and what he would do when he got there (1980). Unfortunately for Marlow, Kurtz is not the great prophet that Marlow makes him out to be, at least, not in the sense that Marlow expects. At the Inner Station, Marlow discovers the answer to his earlier question of “just what such a man would do when he got to the top,” when he realizes that Kurtz had set himself up as a god to the natives. An example of this is when Marlow notices the hanging heads when first meeting Kurtz. The natives have learned to obey Kurtz and treat him like a god. Kurtz also has his own army that will do anything he commands including the attack on Marlow s boat.
In the seventeen page pamphlet in which Kurtz writes that “We whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings (1995). This is a statement of a commonly held European view that Europeans are supposed to civilize the Africans. Kurtz is an example of the whole imperialistic view. He has been sent out by Europe to give his country a profit and to try and civilize the natives. Kurtz also writes in his pamphlet Exterminate all the brutes (1995). The Brutes according to Kurtz are the natives. Kurtz, like Europeans of the time, have been entrenched with the philosophy that somehow the Africans are inferior with the white race.
Marlow finally begins to realize how easily he could become like Kurtz. Marlow knows that he too has looked into the darkness. He even remarks that he has found himself becoming more savage like Kurtz. Marlow knows how easily anyone, or himself, could take the path that Kurtz has taken. Marlow even says, since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare . (2011). Marlow can now better understand Kurtz. After Kurtz s death and Marlow s zombie-like condition, it is obvious that Marlow is able to understand Kurtz s dark world. When Marlow returns to Brussels he sneers at the people that he sees walking the streets, calling them “intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretense.”(2012). Here Marlow is speaking of how the Europeans believed Kurtz was a great man, and what Europe was doing in Africa was actually right. Marlow, however, knows the real Kurtz and what he had really done in Africa.
In Heart of Darkness Marlow realizes how easily he could have become like Kurtz when all moral restraints are no longer there. Every man has an evil side somewhere inside of them. When he is no longer confined he can turn away and do as he pleases as Kurtz has done. Even though Marlow finds out how easily he could have been more like Kurtz he does not. Throughout Marlow s journey he begins to see what many other people did not: that Europe was in Africa only for a profit and to civilize the natives of Africa.