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

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Heart of Darkenss: Kurtz, Europe and Africa

When reading the Heart of Darkness by Conrad, I tried to get the gist of the story; but I concentrated more on actions than I did on the meaning behind them. In addition, I did understand the story, or at least I thought I did. I thought the story was about a man named Kurtz and what he did. I failed to notice the underlying story, the more important one—the one dealing with Marlow and what the actions of Kurtz truly meant. Why Kurtz did what he did, and how he challenged the system that so desperately wanted to control him. I finally began to understand that everything Kurtz did was for something other than ivory; Kurtz had a point to make. Marlow is helping the legacy of Kurtz live on by simply telling the tale of Kurtz’s life. Not only that, but Marlow is showing people how he viewed Kurtz and his relationship with Europe and Africa.

Kurtz had a very interesting relationship with Europe. The company liked Kurtz, at first. He was there best hope for gaining any money. However, the company was very concerned with their appearance; they did not want anyone to know that they were in Africa for making money. They wanted their employees to have that same attitude—say one thing, do another. However, Kurtz did not do that. Kurtz became the man who truly showed what the company was all about, and that was making money. Kurtz knew that no one else would question to the company because of their power, but he knew that he had to make known the real reasons for their “enlightening” the natives. Therefore, Kurtz did the best thing he could do: he turned into a complete barbarian, taking as much ivory as possible, regardless of who he had to kill. Kurtz knew that what he was doing was a horrendous thing, yet he sacrificed himself so that the rest of Europe may know the truth. At times I thought Kurtz was completely barbaric, but his last words proved me wrong. “The horror, the horror” were his last words; words, as I believe Marlow saw them, that showed that Kurtz knew exactly what he was doing, although he regretted every minute of it. He was able to make the truth known, but it cost him his life.

His relationship with Africa was completely different from the one he had with Europe, although they both had one thing in common: both feared Kurtz. Europe because of how dangerous he could be if the truth got out, and Africa because of brutal he was to the natives. Africa feared Kurtz and the power that he brought with him; he seemed unstoppable, and those who rebelled were killed. Even though Kurtz was not really a cold-blooded killer, he knew that doing the extreme was necessary to make the truth known about what was going on in Africa. It seems that Kurtz was seen as some kind of deity, perhaps because of the way he used his power. One event that really sticks out to me is the way he had heads on sticks surrounding his camp. Kurtz was not just leaving the heads up there for the natives; I believe he put them up there for the Europeans as well. Kurtz wanted to show that Europeans were not enlightening Africans, they were using them to get what they wanted, just as Kurtz used the natives to get what he wanted: power. In addition, with that power Europe would not help Africa; they would in reality harm them. Europeans would slowly suffocate the Africans, without the Africans even having a clue.

Stephanie Bosarge


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