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

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s novella, The Heart of Darkness, is a story revolving around two main characters; Marlow and Kurtz. The story starts out with Marlow telling a sea story, and throughout the novella, that seems to be the main point of the narrative. It seems as though Conrad wants us to think the entire story is about a voyage taken through the Congo river in Africa by this youthful and aspiring man (Marlow) looking to better himself in the world. This novella follows that path until the second protagonist is introduced, and that point the story seems to take a huge turn. Kurtz is introduced to Marlow in the narrative by the Manager only by word of mouth. The Manager speaks very highly of Kurtz and explains his importance to the company’s success. From that point on, the theme of the story shifts to finding Kurtz and saving him before he dies from sickness. Marlow’s drive, or will succeed in the Congo, is derived simply from the fact that he must meet Kurtz and converse him; though Marlow does not realize this until he faces a near death encounter with the natives. It is at this very moment that Marlow realizes the ominous importance of Kurtz, not only to the company, but to Europe and Africa as well.

Kurtz was direct representation of all that was good in Europe. He represented a vast background and many cultures. His mother was half-French and his father was half-English which clearly made him a representation of that portion of Europe. Everyone knew of Kurtz and many of which sought for his guidance. It is best stated in the novella on page 74; “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs (ISSSC) had entrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance.” That report alone supported the sole purpose of the company’s purpose in Africa. Europe felt it was their responsibility to impress civilization on the so called savages of the world. Europe felt that this is what Kurtz was achieving in Africa, and made him very important. Not only was he important to Europe, but he was just as important to the company. He was the company’s best hope for gaining money and profit. Due to this, Kurtz was a big part of the company’s appearance, and the company did not want the real truth about their “enlightening” of the natives to get out. Kurtz made a tremendous sacrifice for the truth to be known throughout Europe, but in the end it cost him his life.

Kurtz’s relation with Africa was a completely different one. He went from representing all that was good in the intentions of Europe to be the exact portrait of what the company’s sole purpose was; and that purpose was to make money at all cost. Africa and the natives had a fear of Kurtz, he intimidated many of them. He knew that he must either kill them to show that he was ominous, or enslaving them to help him achieve his goal. Many of the natives saw Kurtz as a god of sorts; maybe because of his presence or simply placing some of the native’s heads on sticks. Yet this entire time, Europe believed the company was there to enlighten the natives, and make them more civilized. Kurtz’s report for the ISSSC contained a post script, which said “Exterminate all the brutes!” That concise statement completely contradicts everything Europe represented. Instead, Kurtz became the center of exactly what the company was all about, “The horror! The Horror!”


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4:45 PM  

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