A Heart Of Darkness Essay, Research Paper
A Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad tells the story of a man’s journey through parts of Africa while confronting his fears of insanity, failure, death, and cultural contamination. The man, Marlow, being the protagonist had to overcome inner fears, the antagonist.
It begins with Marlow and a group of men with well-respected professions in a ship on the Thames River. He begins to speak about an experience he had in Africa. The story starts with his aunt assisting him in getting a job with the Administration Department of a seafaring, exploration company that gathers ivory. Marlow was to replace a captain who was killed on a trip. Upon entering the company office, he feels everyone looking at him with pity and the doctor who administered his physical asked him if his family had a history of insanity. This puzzles Marlow, but he does not think much of it. The next day he embarks on a one-month journey to the primary company station. Along the trip Marlow notices that the African shores are dark, desolate and anything but welcoming. He also comes to find out that one of the company members had recently committed suicide. In the midst of the gloomy atmosphere, Marlow meets a well-dressed, respected man, who introduces himself as the Chief Accountant of the company. They become friends, until Marlow observes his temper. After a total of ten days with the man, Marlow departs for his 200-mile journey to the center of the Congo, where he will work for a man named Kurtz.
During the trip to meet Kurtz, Marlow tried to find himself. The company finds their true selves through contact with the savage natives. He finds that the deeper they travel into the jungle they go the more unsettled wilderness he sees.
Kurtz becomes a very important character in the story, because of his similarities to Marlow. Both Marlow and Kurtz entered the Congo with good intentions, an English education, and a woman waiting at home. However, at first it was rumored on the ship that Kurtz was ill, and then it was rumored that he had been killed in a fight with some natives in the Congo. Marlow also overhears his manager and his manager’s uncle say that they would like to see Kurtz and his assistant hanged so that their station could be eliminated as ivory competition. When Marlow finally gets to meet Kurtz, he sees that Kurtz is very ill, and that because he had been separated from his culture so long he had become corrupted by his power and solitude. Kurtz entrusts Marlow with all of his old files and papers including a picture of his sweetheart. The jungle had changed Kurtz greatly, because he had once been considered an honorable man. Kurtz had discovered his evil side and gone insane. Marlow observed that Kurtz had human heads displayed on posts that “showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts.” (Pg. 221) Kurtz dies onboard the steamboat a few days later, with Marlow having attended him until the end.
Marlow struggles with the conflict that he may become what Kurtz had become. He realizes that only very near the time of death, does a person grasp the big picture of their life. With that, he returns to England, but the memory of his friend haunts him. He managed to track down the woman from Kurtz’s picture and she spoke about his wonderful personality and how she felt guilty for not being there in the end. Marlow lies and tells her that the last words Kurtz spoke were her name.