Heart Of Darkness 15 Essay, Research Paper
In this paper I will show the effect the Heart of Darkness had on Kurtz in the stages prior to, the Kurtz in transition, and at the end of his journey.
The Kurtz prior to his journey was a man with a noble heart. We learn about Kurtz prior to his journey by listening to the conversations Marlow has when he returns from Africa. Marlow talked with Kurtz cousin, an old colleague, and his Intended. Kurtz was a universal genius (244). The old colleague told of how the man could talk. He electrified large meetings. He had faith He could get himself to believe anything (244). Marlow fully agreed with this statement. Marlow said, This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it (241).
He was one of those men who you had to admire. You HAD to love him, if you knew him. The Intended said, she had been worthy of him (248). She speaks of him as almost a god. The Intended promises Marlow she was worthy of him, she had all his noble confidence. Their engagement wasn t approved because Kurtz wasn t wealthy enough. Kurtz had the ability to draw men towards him by what was best in them (249). This is the gift of the great. Kurtz was a great man. He was a born leader.
The Kurtz prior to the journey seems to be a man with a heart of gold. His goodness shone in every act (250). But in actuality his soul was conformed by society and the warning voice of a kind neighbor (206). He was a man with principles just because principles were all around him. Kurtz was dependent on that kind neighbor to keep him noble.
The Kurtz in transition was a man with a heart that understands what is going on in the jungle. Kurtz is described as a first-class agent, a very remarkable person, who will go very far. Kurtz drew a painting of a woman, draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. The painting had a background that was somber-almost black. Her movements were stately, and the effect of the torch-light on the face was sinister (169). Kurtz had painted this while he was at the Central Station. This painting is Kurtz view of the colonization of Africa. The blindfold refers to the lack of vision that the advancing civilization going into Africa has. Marlow agrees. He refers to the colonists, as men going at it blind-as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness (140). The torch usually means bearers of a spark from the sacred fire, bearers of Christianity. But in this sense, the torch seems to be destructive, a tool that is used to start fires on the savages homes. This gives the sinister effect on the face. Christianity isn t being served; the torch is being used for evil. All this means that Kurtz actually realizes all that is happening. Kurtz is beginning to understand what this foreboding evil is, the darkness all around him.
Kurtz is said to be a prodigy an emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else (169). This was said by the brick-maker who didn t make any bricks. This man realized the potential Kurtz had. A prodigy is a genius, someone with a lot of potential. As an emissary of pity he is one who represents the savages. He came to the jungle to write a paper about the savages and their customs; He was their ambassador. As an emissary of science, he was one that had great plans and ideas as to how to control the savages and not rape the land. As an emissary of progress he represented someone who could change the relationship with the savages. He came out to the jungle with moral ideas of some sort. In the end he turned it for the worse by taking advantage of them. The devil does know what else. I believe the devil was a large part of Kurtz; the darkness had sunk in along with the devil.
In the transition Kurtz realizes what the darkness does to men there. He believes that he can overcome the darkness. He believes he can bring his moral ideas and change the way they colonize the darkness. He believes he can change how the white man treats the savage. He believes he can take the sinister torch and make it a spark from the sacred fire.
Kurtz at the end of the journey is a man with a heart of darkness. His heart had been overcome by the evil. He is so enveloped by the darkness that he doesn t want to leave it. This is seen when he tries to crawl out of the steamboat and back to the savages fires. It is shown earlier when he comes down the river with the ivory in the canoes and then turns back, just short of the central station. I believe this is a turning point in the book. Instead of coming out of the darkness he decides to go against the flow (of the common man and the river) and head back into it. The darkness has its grip on Kurtz by now.
Kurtz is described as being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out was his ability to talk, his words-the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness (203-204). This quote shows that he could talk, but it was what he talked about that mattered. He once spoke from the light, but now it flows from the heart of an impenetrable darkness.
Marlow says The thing was to know what he (Kurtz) belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own (206). Marlow begins to see that Kurtz has been corrupted by the darkness. Marlow also knows what causes this corruption. It is the absence of civilization. Marlow says surrounded by kind neighbors ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman how can you imagine utter solitude without a policeman where no warning voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whispering of public opinion? These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness (206). Marlow sees that Kurtz innate strength was too weak for the powers of the darkness. It had been civilization that had kept Kurtz in check, and now without it he was fulfilling his most evil desires. Marlow also says that the darkness assaults you and dulls you. Kurtz was dulled by the darkness over his long stay in it.
Kurtz was a great speaker because it echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core (220). Shakespeare knew this, for he once said, the empty vessel makes the greatest sound. This explains the combination of hollowness and eloquence.
Kurtz was under a spell of the darkness. Marlow says I tried to break the spell-the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness-that seemed to draw him (Kurtz) to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions (234). Kurtz wanted to do the things he was always told not to do in civilization. Now no one was telling him not to do them, so he did what felt good.
Kurtz is not crazy though, his intelligence was perfectly clear-concentrated (234). It was something else, his soul was mad (235). Being alone in the wilderness, his soul had looked at itself and had gone mad. But Kurtz struggled with himself, too. Marlow saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself (235). He couldn t control his soul, his soul full of darkness. It overtook him, and nothing could stop it!
His appearance also changed as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror-of an intense and hopeless despair (239). His ivory face is an ironic statement; it seems to imply that the ivory became part of him. He had power over the savages, and now he realized at his death that he had no hope.
As they left the darkness, Kurtz life seemed to run out of him. The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness (237). The current ran from the jungle, but the current of life also ran out of Kurtz heart, a heart of darkness.
At the end of the journey, Kurtz gives up his high aspirations, and the wilderness brings out the darkness and brutality of his heart. All principles and desires of the civilized society are stripped from him, and the unspeakable passions and greed of his true nature are revealed. He collects a following of natives who worship him as an idol. He allows them to worship him. The full significance of the wilderness can be seen only through Kurtz, because he gives in to the powers of the wilderness. Through the influence of the wilderness, Kurtz basic human nature is revealed. At his death, he sees the true state of mankind. His gaze is piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness (241). His final statement of The horror! The horror! (239) is his judgment on all of life. The wilderness brings Kurtz to the point where he has a full awareness of himself, and from there he makes his affirmation about all mankind.
The old doctor knew what was happening. He commented, It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot (148). All that remains is a memory now, a memory of his promise, his greatness, his generous mind, and of his noble heart. He was a man with plans, but his words and example shall survive.