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

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kurtz, Europe, and Africa

I feel that Marlow understands the relation between Kurtz, Europe, and Africa differently in the beginning of his journey than he does towards the end of his journey to bring Kurtz back home.

In the beginning Kurtz is referred to as a European knight; A “knight errant”. A knight errant is a figure in medieval romantic literature that would wander the land in search of conquests/adventures for example, Don Quixote. Don Quixote wandered the land in search of adventures to prove his chivalry. Although he was not actually doing that his intentions were good. In the beginning Kurtz represents this knight, to Marlow, that is so eloquent and good that is going to go through Africa and make it better; go through and “enlighten” the Africans to the European/christian way. In a sense Kurtz represents Europe, or at least how others view Kurtz. Europeans were to enlighten the world. They were to go to these “shaded” areas on the map and teach them “the way,” their way.

In the end Marlow sees that Kurtz did go through Africa and show them his way. Kurtz represents Europe’s spreading through unconquered areas wreaking havoc on all they touch. They begin with good intentions or appear to have good intentions to others but in the end they are hurting who they touch. But, as Marlow has a good impression of kurtz before he meets the man, the Europeans at home think that the Europeans in Africa are teaching the africans and helping them make their country better, they believe they are “bringing light to the country” when in all reality they are putting them in bondage. The Europeans are calling the Africans criminals and chaining them up and making them do useless work and Kurtz takes it further by calling them rebels, cutting their heads off, and putting the heads on posts for all to see.

I think Marlow feels that both Europe and Africa are “in the dark” for different reasons. One example of Europe being in the darkness is that all the women Marlow meets while in Europe are in black clothing or knitting black wool, maybe suggesting that these Europeans are in the dark and do not know what is going on in Africa. There are a couple areas in the text that suggest that one should hide the truth from the women because they would not be able to handle the truth. They talk about how out of touch women are and how they have never seen anything like it before, that they live in a world of their own. The women (Europeans) will not be able to handle reality. Especially at the end of the narrative when Marlow goes to Kurt’s intended and tells her what will make her happy and keeps her in the “darkness.”

By telling his story, Marlow is bringing light to what is going on in Africa. I think the true enlightenment is bringing to light, to the Europeans, what is actually going on over there and through the telling of Marlows story it is bound to eventually spread through Europe and Europe will eventually be enlightened.


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