This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

How does Marlow understand the relation between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa? In Marlow’s point of view, “all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz.” But he also says referring to Kurtz, “I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.” I think these two quotes are important because they describe exactly what Marlow thinks of Kurtz, no matter how many times he is convinced otherwise or disillusioned into believing something else.

Marlow points out that “all of Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,” in the literal sense that his parents were of Europe but different countries. The phrase, “the making of” sounds like the description of an object, not a human being. Similar to the way that Marlow describes the Africans he sees slaving over the company’s work. To sum up my thoughts, this quote describes Kurtz like an object that Europe created. So Kurtz is Europe’s creation, who is sent or chooses to go to Africa to pursue this business of harvesting ivory. He is praised by all in the company mainly because it’s a business and Kurtz is a good business man, he gets the job done. The company’s goal is not to enlighten Africa, as some characters claim, but to make money. And Kurtz is the ultimate money maker; he does whatever it takes to get the job done. The company keeps what Kurtz does quiet because maybe they don’t know exactly how he is getting all the ivory and also because they are scared of him. They don’t want to upset him or anything because then he could start working for himself instead of them. Kurtz, in a sense, is worse than the natives. The company could control the natives, but not Kurtz. I mean, he establishes himself as a godlike figure to the natives in and around the Inner Station. He is worshipped even by the Russian, who should know better because he is “civilized.” He even says that we can’t judge Kurtz as “an ordinary man.” He, like the natives, was infatuated with Kurtz.

Another interesting quote is “I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.” Marlow is referring to Kurtz in this quote. I think that if we dissect this, we find deep meaning behind it as to what Marlow thinks of Kurtz. Kurtz is the man lying at the bottom of this cliff. In this story, there are many times when Marlow is in Africa and cliffs are part of the scenery. So I think that we can say that Kurtz is at the bottom of an African cliff. Not only is he down there, but he is lying, not standing. This could mean that he is tired or even shamed. A worn-out Kurtz is lying at the bottom of this African cliff where there is no sun. Sun, I think in this context, refers to the on going metaphor of dark and light in this novella. No sunlight means darkness; there is darkness at the bottom of this cliff where Kurtz is lying. Kurtz is part of darkness, you could say. This darkness represents Africa and all the stereotypes that come along with it like savagery and brutality. How could Europe produce something so “dark” when it is civilized? I think this is a major point in this novella written by Joseph Conrad, but through the eyes of Charlie Marlow.

-Mihee Jones


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