The novella The Heart of Darkness can be seen as both a literal journey into the jungle of Africa (physical darkness) as well as a metaphorical journey into the heart of the individual.  Marlow's journey of self discovery can be seen by the comments Marlow inserts while narrating the literal journey.  The story becomes double layered as Marlow tells the reader the story of Kurtz.  Marlow identifies with Kurtz, the difference being that Marlow doesn't succumb to the darkness like Kurtz or that which may be found in every person's soul.  In essence, Marlow's discovery of Kurtz is shrouded in mystery.  As the story progresses, slowly Marlow learns who Kurtz was and who Kurtz became as well as learning about himself.  He gets close enough to the edge to peer into the darkness but does not fall into it. 
Comment upon this aspect of the novella.  Do you feel that the mystery of Kurtz and the process of learning about him can also symbolize the process of learning about one's self?  Explain.
For this task, you are to all contribute to your own posting of approximately half a page and then respond to at least one other person's response.  You will be graded on your ability to think deeply and critically about the material studied. 
**  Remember as this is an English class I expect to see discussion of and/or reference to the author's literary techniques, the effect of using such devices, and evidence from the text (3 parenthetical citations) to support your assertions.
** Try to be respectful of other people's opinions.  
Due: 19/20 March (if late you will recieve -15 points for every day late)
Currently rated 3.8 by 8 people
  • Currently 3.75/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5


  • MacNamee

    I do agree with the statement that the process of learning about oneself is similar to they way in which the reader learns about Kurtz. This has to deal with the idea of temptation. Everyone is faced with some sort of temptation, however it is the way in which one responds that makes a difference. This separates Kurtz and Marlow. Where Kurtz fell into temptation by continuing to exploit the blacks. for instance, Kurtz's methods destroyed the district in which he was working(102). This shows that the ivory was worth more than the lives of the blacks. Whereas Marlow realized the evils of what was occurring in the jungles of Africa. The same temptation was also shown to Marlow. For instance, "I put down the glass, and the head that had appeared near enough to be spoken to seemed at once to have leaped away from me into inaccessible distance"(103). This shows the dividing line between the two. It can also be used to show an aspect of human nature. Therefore, the novella is not only a story criticizing imperialism, yet also a story that describes the ability of people to fall into temptation.

    3/17/2009 6:56:48 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Great post Caitlin! I think Conrad wants the reader to see this darkness is possible for all of us. For other bloggers, lets take a look at what it is that shows us that Marlow begins to develop a clearer perspective of himself! Where do we see changes occuring through the novel?

    3/17/2009 7:07:45 PM
  • Angela Phillips

    Initially in the novella, Marlow is more interested in the surfaces of things (ie. "foreign shores" (5)), rather than in finding the hidden meaning and truth. This is where Conrad develops his motif of interiors and exteriors, and thereby demonstrates that penetrating into the core of an idea or a person is impossible in this world. Conrad then challenges Marlow to confront the exteriors that he is so interested in (imperialism), and delve into their hidden meaning. Thus, as Marlow moves farther and farther into the jungle, we see him make critical comments that further characterize him. As Marlow learns about Mr. Kurtz and his personality, it prompts him to discover his own self and his own opinion of the hidden truth behind imperialism. The height of Marlow's relationship with Kurtz occurs as Kurtz is dying and Marlow is the only one to hear his last words. "I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless dispair...he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: 'The horror! The horror!'" (69). It is only in his death that Kurtz' evil soul is revealed, and Marlow is able to observe the effect that imperialism and greed has had on Kurtz' and therefore finds the hidden truth of the novel. In addition to discovering Conrad's message about imperialism, Marlow also discovers himself: "I have wrestled with death" (70). Marlow becomes aware of how close he was to meeting the same fate as Kurtz, and also, that the surfaces of things aren't as significant nor as accurate as they may seem to be.

    3/17/2009 7:15:05 PM
  • Angela Phillips

    Caitlin MacNamee:

    I don't think that the way one learns about oneself is similar to they way we, as readers, learn about Kurtz. It's similiar to the way that Marlow learns about Kurtz. As we are detatched from the realm of the novel, we are not presented with the temptations that Kurtz is, so it would be unfair to say that we truly learn about the experience Kurtz lives. Because Marlow is going down a path very similar to that of Kurtz, he is able to gauge his personality in reference to Kurtz. This is how Marlow is able to catch himself before he succumbs to the evil of imperialism. He sees his fate (in Kurtz) before he reaches it himself. We, as readers, do not see our personal fates in Kurtz, and therefore cannot improve our lives or discover personal meaning from Kurtz' experience.

    3/17/2009 7:22:39 PM
  • Clement

    The process of learning about Kurtz can also symbolize the process of learning about one’s self, as illustrated with the protagonist of the novella, Marlow. Once Marlow accepts the job to bring back Kurtz, he encounters scenes of torture, cruelty, and slavery as a direct result of colonization (17), at first he continues to disregard the negative effects colonization has and plans on completing the company’s desire to have Kurtz. Marlow initially didn’t have much enthusiasm to meet Kurtz, but his enthusiasm progressively increases with the description of multiple characters and the sense of mystery regarding his life and presence still in Africa (46). As Marlow acknowledges the wrongness of colonization as it brings great devastation to the natives and the life Kurtz endured, it becomes apparent that Marlow has learned a valuable lesson thus changing his attitude toward the company greatly. Although Marlow captures Kurtz and attempts to bring him back to them alive, it doesn’t become apparent to the readers his drastic self realization until the end of the novella. Once Kurtz dies, Marlow finds himself with pictures, pamphlets and postscripts, the company wanted some of the remaining belongings such as the pamphlet, although Marlow refuses to give them the pamphlets. Marlow has finally comprehended the injustice of the company as it acts merely for personal benefit; this is the first instance in which Marlow doesn’t obey the company as he hands the pamphlets to a journalist colleague Kurtz had (67). As a result of Marlow’s behavior, Conrad is able to illustrate the theme of the novella, the wrongness of colonization, since the plot of the entire novella is to find Kurtz, making the correlation between learning about Kurtz and about one’s self present.

    3/17/2009 11:56:07 PM
  • Clement


    I agree that the story is dealing with the theme of temptation as personal benefit is the foundation for colonization, but I also think the novella deals with how characters rise above temptation. Both Kurtz and Marlow had significant insight toward the manner in which they lived. Kurtz was initially portrayed as one who could care less about the natives and only about the company’s best interest, although eventually Kurtz is illustrated as humane as he recognized the violence and intimidation, thus making him act completely differently (42). Marlow never questions the manner in which the company conducts itself even in the presence of scenes with cruelty, torture, slavery and death (17) which was a direct result of the company. Throughout the process of the retrieving Kurtz, Marlow continuously learns more about the dilemma that is taking place around him (colonization), although he doesn’t make a significant protest of the company until the end of the novel, as he refuses to give the company Kurtz’s pamphlet. The passage in which the pamphlet was given to a journalist colleague Kurtz had represents Marlow’s self realization regarding the company’s wicked deeds which Marlow previously supported.

    3/18/2009 12:12:42 AM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    One page one Conrad the reader is told about Marlow from the frame narrator that "Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against the mizzenmast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hands outwards, resembled an idol" (Conrad). Do you feel this quote is significant in understanding Marlow's internal journey? Here Marlow is described almost like a Buddha figure, hence the yellow complexion and the palms of hands facing outwards....He resembled an idol (Buddha is indeed an idol). He is also described as sitting cross-legged like Buddha sat...he is meditating like Buddha does. How does this reference assist the reader in understanding the internal journey of Marlow as the story does progress? Can't this relate to his journey of self-enlightment? Like Buddha he's sitting against a mizzenmast-erect, tall, tree-like object just as Buddha sat against a tree.

    3/18/2009 7:26:47 AM
  • Sean

    I do believe that the mystery of Kurtz and the process of learning about him can also symbolize the process of learning about one's self. The buddha was once asked, "Have you ever felt anger toward another?" To which the Buddha replied, "Of course, as this is a natural feeling humans receive when their opinions are not received." He was then asked, "Have you ever felt the need to strike another?" And the Buddha replied, "Yes, but as I am connected to all things, and to all things me, hurting another would be hurting myself, and how does that benefit me?" As one can see, we all experience temptation, but the difference between Marlow and Kurtz is that Kurtz gives into this temptation. The wealth and power that surrounds Kurtz eventually consumes him, but his evil nature does not come from result of his surroundings, but rather is manifested from within him... within his soul, or his "Heart of Darkness." One of the most famous lines from the novel are Kurtz's last words, "The horror! The horror!" This can be interpretted in many ways, but I feel that it means that Kurtz is reliving his life, and he realizes how awful he has been. One of the themes Conrad uses is this theme of emphathizing with evil nature. At first, Marlow is fascinated by Kurtz as an individual, yet even after he hears of the horrible things Kurtz has done, he sympathizes with him when he dies. This is because even though Marlow does not become evil, throughout his spiritual journey, he realizes he has the potential to be consumed by wealth and power. The message to the reader is to follow Marlow's path of abstaining from evils that are ever-present in our lives. That is what I got from the process of learning about Kurtz.

    3/18/2009 1:44:56 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Sean, I really liked your addition of the information in regards to Buddha. While Marlow is literally described this way early in the novella, he also manifests like behaviors such as contemplation and reflection that are indicative of his growth through the novel.

    3/18/2009 3:02:26 PM
  • Michael

    Marlow's journey through Africa demonstrates a change in his worldview. Conrad depicts Marlow's changing character through his perception of Kurtz. The reader realizes that Marlow is aware that the European presence in the African jungle is not to bring civilization when he speaks with his aunt. In this revealing passage, Marlow states "There had been a lot of such rot let loose in print and talk just about that time, and the excellent woman, living right in the rush of all that humbug, got carried off her feet. She talked about 'weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways,' till, upon my word, she made me quite uncomfortable. I ventured to hint that the Company was run for profit" (19). Marlow's awareness of this suggests he did not particularly care about the native population and that he accepted that the Company was run for profit. This is reinforced through his LEXICON of racial terminology, such as "cannibals". Kurtz is first presented as "a very remarkable person" (31) who "Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together" (31). Marlow demonstrates indifference towards Kurtz, when he states "There were rumours that a very important station was in jeopardy, and its chief, Mr Kurtz, was ill. Hoped it was not true. Mr Kurtz was...I felt weary and irritable. Hang Kurtz, I thought" (38). Later, Marlow states "I was then rather excited at the prospect of meeting Kurtz very soon" (60). Marlow undoubtedly sees Kurtz's activities as inconsequential and intriguing. However, when Marlow meets Kurtz, his opinion changes: "I want you to clearly understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts" (107), with regards to the heads Kurtz's men had put on stakes. Marlow's change in perception represents a change in his own views--he sees that the Company is not enlightening and it is not efficient. It is merely cruel and inhumane as imperialism drives people into the wilderness of their inner hearts of darkness.

    3/18/2009 4:21:06 PM
  • Courtney

    In Heart of Darkness, the protaganist Marlow follows the path to self-discovery as he follows a path to understanding Kurtz. Initially he idolizes Kurtz because he is simply observing a veneer of this man as he has no ability to see his inner darkness. Conrad expresses this exterior mindset at the beginning of the novel through the use of exterior imagery such as descriptions of the scenery to show that Marlow experiences these images as significant. As the novel progresses and Marlow travels to the interior of the Congo, he consistently experiences events in which he himself must analyze this facade and discover the darkness/evil within it. "One day, he remarked...'In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz' (22)". At this point, Marlow is unaware of who Kurtz is and the term "interior" holds a double-meaning. He will meet Kurtz in the physical interior of the Congo but also in the emotional interior where he'll discover Kurtz's true evil nature. When Additional examples of his self-discovery are seen when Marlow is narrating his story to the narrator of the novel he digresses into thoughts on the humanity of the Africans. He says that, "I have a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced" (44). This marks a point where he is his own person and hasn't fallen to the same temptations for power and material as he later realizes Kurtz has. He also states that "There was surface-truth enough in these things to save a wiser man" (45). Again, dealing with Conrad's use of imagery, it's apparent that Marlow has used the exterior to discover the evil of societal corruption and imperialism instead of using the fake "interior" ideal given to him at the beginning of the novel. In conclusion, through Marlow's journey towards and understanding of Kurtz he simply realizes that Kurtz has succumbed to evil and that he has the choice not to.

    3/18/2009 4:57:05 PM
  • Michael

    Angela, you're a dork and you're mean to me so I'm going to write a criticism on what you said! Ha!

    The motif on interior vs. exterior is a great thing to point out, as it truly underlies the inability of Europeans to see beyond profit into the core moral perversion that they are perpetratitng. They only see the exterior situation and are unaware of the interior consequences. Nonetheless, I would not claim that Conrad believes it is impossible to see the core of an individual. Conrad portrays the greed that underlies the European actions, and the reader is able to deduce the driving force behind European action.

    3/18/2009 4:59:06 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Michael you show great insight into Marlow's internal journey. I particularly appreciate your well integrated examples.

    3/18/2009 5:02:37 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Courtney, I really like your post too! Especially the quote, "I have a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is the speech that cannot be silenced" (44). I think you trace his internal journey with great accuracy and specificity.

    3/18/2009 5:07:48 PM
  • Courtney

    In a way I agree with your analysis of Caitlin's answer. No, we don't deal with the same temptations as Kurtz and Marlow. Although this may be true, once seperate from the novel we still experience temptations and observe other people's response to them too. It's true we don't have ivory to hoard, but if we see the negative consequences a person faces when they break a law then we'll hopefully be wise and not do the same. Overall, we do take the same path as Marlow takes as we observe events and collect experiences. This allows us to eventually find our own voice, as Marlow claims to have found his.

    3/18/2009 5:10:34 PM
  • A Glener

    Throughout the novella, Conrad seems to be juxtaposing the effect of the jungle on Kurtz with its effect on Marlow. The ironic part of this comparison is that Conrad demonstrates the jungle's effect on both characters using one quote, 'The horror! The horror!'" (69), Kurtz's last words. With this statement Conrad illustrates how the jungle has mentally broken Kurtz. However; the way in which Marlow lies about this statement to Kurtz's Intended exemplifies how, even after his journey through the jungle, Marlow has the ability to make an action based solely on morality (compared to Kurtz who has lost this ability).
    Because Conrad uses the same quote to evoke differing effects, he is conveying to the reader that the same environment/situation can have a varying impact on people. Thus, as Marlow learned about himself (due to the impact that the Congo had on him), the reader learns about himself as the jungle has an impact on him.

    3/18/2009 5:46:59 PM
  • A Glener


    I see the point that you are making, but at the same time don't both of the characters succumb to temptation in that they are both employees of The Company? Although Conrad makes Marlow's realization of The Company's corruption blatant to the reader, it does not necessarily mean that Kurtz has not simultaneously come to the same conclusion. Towards the end of the novella, Conrad alludes to the fact that Kurtz has interactions with the natives, thus proving that he has accepted them as humans and not merely "savages."

    3/18/2009 5:54:24 PM
  • LauraG

    I agree-we learn about ourselves just as Kurtz did. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s life is the vehicle in which Marlow travels in to find himself. He looks up to Kurtz as a symbol of greatness and admiration, “a gifted creature, of real presence…ability to talk, his words—the gift of expression” (46), however, by the end of the novel, his view changes as he realizes Kurtz is not the man he made him out to be. As he travels through Africa, he realizes the darkness within as he claims that “going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted the earth and the big trees were kings…you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you though yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once—somewhere—far away—in another existence perhaps”(35). This “distance” is similar to the “distance” Marlow feels after realizing Kurtz’s true identity. He realizes that what Kurtz says and does are different things.

    3/18/2009 6:30:38 PM
  • KatieB

    In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Marlow's pursuit of the mystery of Kurtz and the process of learning about him appears to be symbolic of the process of self-discovery as portrayed through Marlow. The sheer brutality and inhumanity of European imperialism and its origins within the darkness of the human soul is the central revelation of the novel. Kurtz represents the illusion of grandeur that shrouds colonialism and conceals its horrors, as well as the cruelty beyond this illusion. Marlow expresses a desire "to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all and how he would set about his work when there" (69). This may be seen as being analogous to Marlow's journey into the Congo (will he be able to maintain his morals, or will he learn that there is a darkness within him, just as Kurtz did?). To Marlow, Kurtz represents a mystery that must be unraveled, and he will become the ultimate case study of a human being existing within the harshest inhumanities. Although Kurtz was meant to be a noble, morally upstanding person, we soon learn about "the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness -- that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions" (111). Living in the wilderness and practicing imperialism, though originally pursued with seemingly good intentions, has caused Kurtz's morals to be thwarted to the extent that he seems more base and savage than the original portrayal of the Congo natives. Marlow's discovery of the true darkness of Kurtz's soul reflects the discovery that everyone carries a darkness within them, and it also points to the idea of a common humanity (anyone can be reduced to "brutal instincts", even the most "civilized" and "moral"), as well as the cruelty of European colonialism.

    3/18/2009 7:07:34 PM
  • LauraG

    I agree- Kurtz is seen as Marlow’s idol. When he realizes his idol isn’t what he originally made him out to be, he learns that throughout his trip in Africa, he, like you said, turned out to be on a trip of self-discovery. However, this trip took its role in place of Marlow’s admiration of Kurtz. Upon understanding this, Marlow, in the end, is the embodiment of everything Kurtz was not. This comes from spending time in the darkness of the African jungle and watching Kurtz as the golden “ideals” around him begin to fade. I also agree with your response to Angela’s post- though it is true we don’t have any material obsessions, like ivory, we do find ourselves through studying others, seeing their strengths/weaknesses, and molding ourselves from our preferences in others, just as Marlow did in regards to Kurtz.

    3/18/2009 7:19:28 PM
  • J Glener

    Conrad uses Marlow’s journey as a way to portray the subtle differences and similarities between the “civilized” world, represented by the Company, and the “savage” world of Africa. Marlow’s journey involves his realization that the two worlds do have these similarities. The journey is also marked by Marlow’s perception and understanding of Kurtz. In the beginning of the novella, Kurtz is described to Marlow as “a first-class agent” and “a very remarkable person” who “sends in as much ivory as all the others put together” (22). From this, the reader can ascertain that excellence is associated with the ability to gain wealth. This draws the first similarity between the two worlds. Then, upon meeting Kurtz, Marlow is able to reach the next step in his journey. Marlow realizes the man Kurtz has become as a result of living in Africa and striving for “somber pride and ruthless power” (65). Because he is now able to distinguish between the person he believed Kurtz to be and the man he was, Marlow was on his way to completing the inner journey that coincided with the physical journey he was recounting.

    3/18/2009 7:32:05 PM
  • J Glener


    I generally agree with your analysis. However, I believe that the audience can begin to perceive Marlow’s change in attitude long before the end of the novella, as you mentioned. Upon meeting Kurtz, Marlow’s disillusion with the Company becomes apparent (although it had slowly been growing throughout his journey). I do agree that the most drastic part of the realization was at the end of the novella when Marlow chose to lie to Kurtz’s Intended because it showed that he not only realized the culmination of his journey, but he acted upon the lesson he learned by not infecting the life of someone naïve that the savageness of Africa also lies within Europe.

    3/18/2009 7:38:18 PM
  • wienke

    Marlow does indeed discover a bit about himself through his journey into the Congo. Though I don't exactly think he identifies with Kurtz, I think he definately empathizes with him, and thus is compassionate to his moral and mental disinigration. In fact, I believe Marlow, while acknowledging his own primitve nature and his desire to reuite with it, takes Kurtz's fall as an example--what will happen if you follow that tempting path.

    3/18/2009 7:49:00 PM
  • wienke

    Yay, LauraG! I completely agree with your analysis. Using Kurtz as a foil to the narrator Marlow, Conrad demonstrates that it is possible to go into the void (Africa, the heart of darkness) and come out morally and mentally intact, and with a new facet of personality and a deeper layer of understanding. It takes a sort of mental fortitude and disdain for greed that Kurtz didn't have and Marlow did.

    3/18/2009 7:53:33 PM
  • Ashley

    I agree that the mystery of Kurtz, and the process of learning about him symbolizes the process of learning about one's self. The novella focuses on the challenges of self-discovery. Upon first hearing about Kurtz, Marlow is drawn to discovering more about the man shrouded in mystery. As the journey continues, the intensity of his curiosity increases. During this period, Marlow makes a shift from interest in superficial issues to hidden meanings. With this Conrad symbolizes the journey of self-discovery. The struggle to find Kurtz is directly comparable to Marlow's struggle to find himself amongst the moral confusion surrounding him. Marlow is confronted with the conflicting morals of the bureaucratic colonists and the rule-defying Kurtz. He is presented with the evils of both sides, and observes the negative consequences of both extremes. The figurative journey can be seen in a literal sense, as Marlow faces fog, and assault on his way to find Kurtz. Navigating the moral road and the Congo River proves to be a difficult feat. Themes of the dangers of imperialism, and the darkness motif further emphasize the complicated nature of finding oneself.

    3/18/2009 8:12:14 PM
  • T Scheidegger

    Marlow’s investigation of Africa and, consequently, Kurtz can definitely be seen as a symbol for self-discovery. Heart of Darkness is all about the realization that imperialism, an idea thought to be grand by most of Europe, is actually completely different once put into action. The ironic reality is imperialism just brings out the worst in the Europeans and causes them to go against their self-proclaimed morals and goals of “bettering” the savages of Africa. Conrad uses his dark versus light theme to emphasis the difference between the actions of the black souled white people and the white souled black savages. Kurtz is Conrad’s major example. He was an upstanding gentleman, a “special being” (62), a man of the arts. He had gone to Africa to spread the imperialistic ideas but instead twisted his morals to suit his true goal – ivory, the obsession of most men on the river. He became a god to the very people he was supposedly trying to “save”. The imagery Conrad uses to describe Kurtz’s place of residence tells the reader enough. “…and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids, -- a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber” (102). The man that had been described to Marlow, the man who painted the woman holding a lighted torch, would never have been surrounded by such savagery before his journey into Africa, before the temptation of ivory.
    Because that is what’s really occurring. While it seems that Heart of Darkness is just a critique of imperialism, it’s more. As Marlow’s journey unfolds, he is discovering truths, ugly truths that no one civilized would even consider. Without Marlow’s encounter with the abyss of cruel savagery within the dark wilderness, there would’ve been no reason for him to question the actions, the morals, of the men he met. At the beginning of Marlow’s tale, the sailor has no desire to concern himself with anything other than his own problems. He focuses on getting a job and when he discovers that his aunt believes him to be one of the people who will be “weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways” (48) all he really thinks is about the fact he was going to have a job.
    Time passes and with each little anecdote into Marlow’s life during those months on the Congo, Marlow comes to realize there is a very dark part of human nature that seems to be not only existent but rampant in each of the men he meets. The Accountant, a man always keeping his appearance spotless, sees no problem with complaining about the noise of a dying man because it interrupts his work. Kurtz – again, the most prominent example – uses the beliefs of the savages to make himself a god and steal tons of ivory. When Marlow, on the other hand, encounters a dying man, he gives the dying man a biscuit out of pity. And it is Marlow’s beliefs about Kurtz contradicting the reality of his character that truly shows Marlow’s self-discovery.
    Kurtz, the epitome of imperialism, was turned into nothing but a savage man ruled by cruel instincts. There is no evidence of the brilliant man Marlow had heard so much about. The true discovery for Marlow occurs when Kurtz finally falls. “I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror—of an intense and hopeless despair…he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: ‘The horror! The horror!” (115). At this point, Marlow realizes just how horrifying the actions of imperialistic Europe are. But more than that, he realizes that all men—including him—are susceptible to the temptations of life, no matter what their intentions. The safest man in the world would still be a danger to himself.

    A Glener – I definitely agree with your assessment about Conrad using “The horror! The horror!” to demonstrate the jungle’s effect on both Kurtz and Marlow. I do n

    3/18/2009 8:40:58 PM
  • Jordan C

    I would agree that learning about Kurtz is like learning about one's own self. Kurtz himself is a symbol of darkness. Throughout the novella, Marlow has an insatiable obsession with him. We could go so far as to even say that Kurtz is representative of evil. With Marlow's obsession comes a penetration of evil into his soul. Kurtz is portrayed as being an idealistic who is wise and powerful. Evil can sometimes be thought of as being idealistic, easy, and the option with the best gains. This is Kurtz's way of thinking. However, Marlow takes a different route, playing with the thought of the darkness, yet in the end, not submitting. Conrad shows in the end that submitting to the darkness is the wrong route for one to choose when learning about themselves and deciding who they are and who they want to be when Kurtz dies. To exemplify this, his last words are, "The horror! The horror!" (69). These last words reference the horror of what evil and darkness can do when you submit and allow them into your soul. If you allow them to, they will envelop you. Marlow on the other hand, while learning about himself through Kurtz, chose instead to shun evil and darkness. As a result, he survived.

    I would definitely agree that the novella involves the idea of temptation. Among the contributing factors for temptation in the novella include greed, desire for power, and a general thirst for more. These factors describe imperialism perfectly as Britain wanted to control all of Africa that they could, and the people doing the work like Kurtz fell into the "charm" of imperialism by becoming greedy and power-hungry. However, Marlow denies this temptation as in the end we see that he does not have greedy desires. He instead is consumed in learning and particularly wants to learn from Kurtz.

    3/18/2009 9:20:38 PM
  • Germann

    Like almost everyone else, I agree with the idea that as Marlow is learning more and more about Kurtz and all of his mysteries he is also learning more about himself. As Marlow continues through the jungle and down the river we can see how the tone and use of language begins to change to a more sinister and darker mindset. Marlow, himself begins to see how this journey may have changed Kurtz. Marlow says, "The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness." (52) Marlow speaks as though the forest is acting against him and, in a way, impeding him from continuing his journey. This idea is rather contradictory to the European and imperialistic mindset with which Marlow started this journey in which the white men tend to “enforce” their will upon nature and the “savages” of the un-modernized world. However, with Marlow’s confession of how he has become powerless to the forest and how he has “penetrated into the heart of darkness” shows that Marlow is coming to the realization that he is succumbing to the same influence that Kurtz had fell prey to. Marlow ultimately learns that the same desires and greed that are portrayed by European imperialism will inevitably overcome a person and this is later affirmed when Marlow encounters Kurtz in the forest crazed.

    3/18/2009 9:28:41 PM
  • Kylie

    I believe that yes, the experiences with Kurtz could be applied to one's own life. AndConrad does create the perfect parallel between Marlow and Kurtz, showing the two options one can take. The persona of Kurtz causes the reader to reflect upon themselves and ponder how they have changed over time. We may wonder "have we changed for the better? For the worse?" Or have we really changed at all? Conrad makes the reader ask themself, "Is there any 'darkness' in me?" The mystery that surrounds Kurtz is similar to the mystery that surroundsd us as individuals. We think we know who we are, and perhaps some do, but I know that personally I am not certain of everything I am. There are aspects of me that not even I understand. Certain characteristics I see in myself that do not fit the portrait of who I think I am. These mysteries may be unveiled later in my life through gained experience. Through these experiences, I may either view them, then step back as Marlow did, or I may fall into their darkness and be lost. Through this novella, Conrad may be trying to expose ourselves to our own mysteries. Almost an effort to save us by forcing us to realize that we all have a darker side.

    A Glener:
    I agree that the novel exposes us to how one environment can have two differing affects on two people, however I dont think the jungle specifically was the 'cause' of Marlow or Kurtz descent into darkness. It was mroe the ideas behind going there, and the corrupt morals that lingered behind the job. The physical darkness certainly was intimidating to the characters, and surely aided in their internal change, but again I feel it was rather the internal desire and temptation that led to their metaphorical darkness.

    3/18/2009 9:40:59 PM
  • Dawn

    Well, it is shown in the novella the evils of the company and later the evils of Kurtz who runs the program, however many people speak highly of him to Marlow causing him to want to meet Kurtz (71). When it is revealed to the audience the person who Kurtz really is, it also shows insight into Marlow as a character since he does not become a similar man to that of Kurtz. Marlow could have easily taken over the company and its wealth but realizes the evils behind it. Marlow first sees this in the beginning of the novella when he tumbled upon “the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die” (64). The imperialists within the company become obsessed with collecting ivory which in turn negatively affects the lives of the natives with how they are treated. Otherwise, the situation that Marlow becomes involved with proves to become a situation of self discovery for Marlow also. Just as Marlow begins to learn more about Kurtz does he also learn of the evil, of how Kurtz’s “methods had ruined the district” and Marlow does not become involved (123). This can be shown to be similar to anybody learning about their selves. They can be told how great things are but have to interpret it their selves of its greatness or evilness which involves investigation just as Marlow journeys in the Congo and finds out more about Kurtz.

    3/18/2009 9:50:27 PM
  • Germann

    I like your portrayl of how morlaity comes into play when describing Marlow and Kurtz and how their journeys have affected them differently. Through Conrad's use of juztapositon, setting and characterization we can see how he means to convey the greed and evil within those hearts who embody imperialism.

    3/18/2009 9:50:54 PM
  • Dawn

    I believe the connection you made between the Buddha and Marlow is very applicable to the novella. It works off of MacNamee's comment also of how Marlow was able to resist the temptation of the company unlike Kurtz. Also, I've never quite applied the title to the actual heart of Kurtz. I've always seen it as Marlow travels into the heart of the Congo which is full of darkness. It can be considered dark as in uncivilized by the imperialists or dark from Marlow's point of view in the evils caused by the ivory company with the natives of the Congo. Goes to show that the title can represent many things within the novella as a whole.

    3/18/2009 9:55:56 PM
  • Negron

    In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it is apparent to the reader that in Marlow’s search for goodness in the heart of the white men in the Congo that he becomes more and more reliant on the hope that Kurtz will destroy the stereotype of the white men that are tearing apart the African continent. However, as we all know, once Marlow finds Kurtz, he wishes that he could have saved his black helmsman because he was a better man. This series of events mirrors Marlow’s preface to this story that he is telling. The whole reason that he is ‘spinning this yarn’ is to tell how when he was a child he was fascinated with maps and his desire to fill in the blank spots in the African continent around the Congo River. Marlow realized from a young age that all of the uncovered spots on the map were desecrated with the colonial and imperialistic desires of men. He wanted to see if the dark areas on the map were pure and clean unlike the charted portions. This parallels his search within himself and within the heart of all men, especially Kurtz: he was hoping that he could find one redeeming quality to the white men in the Congo, that maybe, just maybe, Kurtz was a noble man that wasn’t in the Congo to rape and pillage, but to bring enlightenment; but as the title indicates, the one uncharted part of the Congo and man’s nature, according to Conrad, was just as dark and tainted as the rest. This means that Marlow was successful in his search for the uncharted, but it was not the result he had searched for. I find it interesting though that Marlow would wish to have the helmsman back rather than being with Kurtz. This shows that perhaps he had found a redeeming quality to the heart of man, but not within the white men. It was in the natives. (this info is from pages 46, 53, and 65).
    And Courtney, nice use of the word veneer. I agree with what you said except for the fact that Kurtz has a veneer. I think it has long since cracked and broken away from him. For example, when Marlow finds Kurtz’s book/journal thing, it’s written in eloquent language, but it has “exterminate all the brutes!” scribbled on a page. This shows that his outer, controlled, self has passed away. I believe that Marlow was searching for a man that could exist as a human without this veneer, hoping that Kurtz would be this case, but he obviously wasn’t.

    3/18/2009 9:57:27 PM
  • Natalie

    While it would seem the common, and obvious, answer to the question posed, I do not feel that it is fair to compare Kurtz’s journey, from man to monster (of sorts), and the mystery that surrounds it to our own personal process of learning as not only are we each individuals but I feel that the temptations that persuaded Kurtz and pulled him in are hardly relatable and are a result of personal folly not of general response, meaning I do not see Kurtz’s journey as a symbol for our own. This is shown through the character of Marlow and how he is able to resist being sucked in. True, there is irony in this contrast as Marlow often remarked on his admiration of Kurtz and how he felt they identified with each other. But I think that the fact that Marlow was able to resist backs the point that we cannot compare our own trials and challenges with those faced by Kurtz, because Marlow also faces temptation in the Congo. The only thing about Kurtz that seems to be remotely symbolic to our own journeys of self discovery is that it is not really until the end that he/we are able to finally see our lives, our selves and the world as it really is. Though we can appreciate what we have and do, essentially, what we want with it, there is no evidence to support the fact that everyone’s passage of self discovery must include a form of extreme darkness and succumbing to it. In the novella, right before Kurtz utters his last words on page 115 (my book), Marlow gives a brief commentary of what he is seeing in Kurtz. He says “I saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror – of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge?” True, everyone has heard of the whole “my life flashed before my eyes” expression people use if they claim to have had a near death experience, but in this case it would appear that Marlow, in his fascination of Kurtz’s emotional shield slipping, also sees what Kurtz had done wrong. We all find ourselves captivated by that which repulses us; why else would people watch gory movies and delight in the pain of others? Yet I believe that it is at this point Marlow sees Kurtz for who he really is and understands the consequences of falling prey to the temptations that life hints at and are only waiting for us to recognize. Marlow speaks of the people he sees after he returns home saying, “They trespassed on my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life to me was an irritating pretence because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew (117).” Marlow had seen and acknowledged the threat of the darkness, yet he knew to resist it and knows that unless we, any of us, have looked darkness square in the face, we will never truly know what it is to live just as we will never be able to say that our journeys can be symbolized by the mysteries and stories surrounding “Mista Kurtz.”

    3/18/2009 10:15:24 PM
  • Natalie

    Miss Gaeta, in response to your comment…I do not believe that we can say we learn about ourselves as Kurtz did because I do not feel he ever really learnt about himself. Marlow learns about Kurtz, both what Kurtz allows others to see and pass on and finally, at the end, when his guard drops and Marlow can see the real man behind the stories and false idolizations. So while I disagree with your beginning statement, I do believe that you are correct in you “distance” comparison as it shows how easily deceived we are and how quickly we try to remedy it once our mistake has been pointed out.

    3/18/2009 10:20:47 PM
  • Crawford

    In Conrad's novella, we meet Marlow. As Marlow beings his journey, so does the reader also begin theirs: Marlow learns about Kurtz and therefore himself, and the reader simultaneously learns about the both of them. As Kurtz is detailed and the novel progresses, the reader begins to realized Kurtz and Marlow juxtapose each other; they signify the two paths everyone is faced with, the light and the dark. Kurtz last words "The horror, the horror!" (70) details Conrad's warning of the acceptance of darkness into one's heart. Kurtz's placement in to novel and his characterization through Marlow help us view Marlow's development. Marlow is told as he travles to the interior, he will most certainly meet Kurtz (22). At this time, he is not ignorant, but on the exterior of himself and the continent. The farther he travels in, a mere bystander on a boat watching the continent go by, he learns more and more about himself, as her learns more about Kurtz. Once he's seen the interior and the way Kurtz has been ravaged by the darkness, he's a changed man. Kurtz provides the warning of the effects of darkness, and therefore details Marlow's close encounter but eventual refusal to accept the dark.

    I agree that Kurtz might have realized the corruption of the Company the same way Marlow did. Unlike the rest of the uncaring or self-centered members of the company, such as the Manager or Accountant, Kurtz actually tries to interact with the natives at least on some level, even if he is taking advantage and power over them. Kurtz breaks tradition of Victorian values and sees the Natives as people, not property.

    3/18/2009 10:25:26 PM
  • Natalie

    A quote that I feel applies to this novella as a whole, both in reference to the personal and physical journeys made by Marlow and Kurtz and to the underlying message is one by Paulo Coehlo from The Alchemist: “When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” This is illustrated in the changes seen in Kurtz and Marlow and in the comments Marlow makes when looking back as he relays his story to the narrator and others listening to him.

    3/18/2009 10:27:24 PM
  • MacNamee

    I'm a little confused about how the quote about darkness ties in to Marlow finding the darkness within himself. Is it because he's faced with what is brought before him, and the beliefs that most of imperialistic Europe and he has to determine how the landscape correlates to what i is he's going to find. In that case, is the landscape preparing both the reader and Marlow for what is to be found in the hearts of every person

    3/18/2009 10:29:23 PM
  • Fred

    In the novella, we see that Marlow has a good head on his shoulders. We see that he has good morals in the fact that he can make good decisions for himself. He decides to travel into the jungle to make some money and go on an adventure as it would be an experience of a life time. When he meets Kurtz he sees that he is not the brightest of people he has met in his life but he realizes that he has been smart enough to survive in the jungle. According to the novella, Marlow seeing Kurtz helps him learn about himself. In real life recognizing someone's faults will help you recognize things about yourself that you never knew you did. Thus Marlow meeting Kurtz in the jungle is also a learning process for Marlow. He recognizes the faults of Kurtz and when he goes to tell Kurtzs' love he died he realizes that lying is not that bad when it comes to making those happy. Marlow recognizes that Kurtz can no longer make a decision with morality and that he can. He notices the fault that Kurtz has and can recognize the opposite in himself.

    3/18/2009 10:56:05 PM
  • Fred

    Adam, I agree with you opinion. I believe this book is meant to help us learn about ourselves. We see that we have a civilized lifestyle and that we can make moral decisions while in the jungle they lose their morals. Kurtz lost his ability to make decisions based on his morals and Marlow recognizes that he still can by seeing Kurtz.

    3/18/2009 11:00:30 PM
  • Mitch

    From the first time Marlow hears Kurtz’s name, he becomes profoundly curious to know who Kurtz really is, but Marlow is on an adventure through the heart of darkness not only to find out who Kurtz is, but also to learn who he himself is. Marlow takes his journey on a river that he says is “a mighty big river, [one] that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land” (7). It is “fascinating—deadly—like a snake” (16). Marlow’s journey on this snake can considered a metaphor of the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Just as Eve was tempted by a serpent to partake of a fruit greater than any other, Marlow is also lead by this snake of a river to a great temptation—the fortune and power of ivory. Marlow could easily have become the type of person he learns Kurtz is—powerful, selfish, and greedy—but he chooses not to. Marlow had often wondered whether Kurtz was a wise man. He wondered where Kurtz got his ideas, his philosophies. But at the “tail of the snake” Marlow realizes that what he thought might be a great man actually turned out to be a weak man. Marlow also sees that in this heart of darkness, there lies darkness in the hearts of man. Kurtz’s heart is dark. His only true love was the temporary, vain rewards he was given for ivory—the power and fame. Kurtz dies unhappy, almost in remorse. “The horror! The horror!” (98). Joseph Conrad shows that the river, like a snake, divides men according to who they are inside, according to the type of men they are. Thus, the river is a journey of finding who one really is, as much for Marlow as for the readers.

    3/18/2009 11:10:46 PM
  • Rev. S. Matt Gilbert II

    In HEART OF DARKNESS, Marlow's own development and realizations reflect the realization of the horrid, dark natures of humanity.
    At the beginning of the novella, Marlow begins to tell a tale of his journey into the unknown; however, he first recalls his experience with the doctor. The doctor reflects to Marlow about how men change when leaving (9). This foreshadows the ultimate corruption of Marlow’s perception of the tendencies of mankind. After embarking upon his expedition, Marlow encounters a plethora of maladroit, corrupt people and situations that begin to clash with the integral make up of Marlow’s initial assessment of the world around him. For example, he meets the manager of the central station who rules using uneasiness and his natural tendency to avoid disease (87). He managed not through virtue or concern for the native peoples of the land to run the company but through the allure of ivory. These people though they deceived themselves with a façade of humanity only sought for chaotic exploitation of the land around them. The only remaining beacon of hope was the idea of Kurtz. This person in Marlow’s mind had become an ubiquitous ideal, a piece to solve this whole puzzle facing Marlow. But upon discovering Kurtz, Marlow finds that he has become crazed as society had perceived Darl at the end of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Though both characters initially seem the most civilized and ideal of all characters, they ultimately are lost in crazed shame at the end of their stories, Kurtz while saying “The Horror! The Horror!” noting the horror of this decay (147).

    3/18/2009 11:25:55 PM
  • Mitch

    I agree with what you said about Kurtz and Marlow both being faced with temptation but handling it differently. Kurtz himself did have a heart of darkness that consumed him and as Adam Glener said, it "mentally broke" him. Marlow learns who he is based on who he doesn't want to become-Kurtz. As you said, Marlow sees through Kurtz the dangers of what happens in the Interior and though he can sympathize with Kurtz, he doesn't want that for himself. He doesn't want to be controlled by a strong temptation for wealth and power. Now, I do think that Kurtz’s “evil nature” is a result of his surroundings. With the way the savages act, admiring him and obeying him, it’s easy to see how Kurtz could have learned to have power. With the way other imperialists treated the savages and only cared for the ivory they could find, it is possible that Kurtz fell into the way of his surroundings. He easily could’ve been caught up in the vanities everyone else was living for. Marlow is truly different. His experience on the river was a journey of learning who he was and who he wanted to become, but Kurtz’s journey was only to become someone of fame, wealth, and power even at the cost of losing himself.

    3/18/2009 11:29:37 PM
  • Rev. S. Matt Gilbert II

    Miguel, I find myself if a mutual accordance similar in magnitude to the strong nuclear force with your statements regarding the revelations of Kurtz's character directly representing revelations of oneself. Kurtz in the beginning stuck with such a tenacity to his own ideals that he became feared by his corrupt compatriots. He even initially, as seen in his recollections, shared Marlow's distaste for imperialism in Africa. However, he became overtaken just as any man may, so we learn of our own inner Heart of Darkness.

    3/18/2009 11:30:39 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Wow! Some exemplary posts! I've really enjoyed reading these. I hope that the discussions so far have been insightful for you and assisted in your deeper understanding of the internal journey concept. Remember if you need to respond to another blog and/or you haven't posted yet, you have until tomorrow.

    3/19/2009 7:30:19 AM
  • Annie

    I definitely agree that the mystery of Kurtz, and learning about him, can symbolize the process of learning about one's self. The Victorian period in which Marlow lived was full of facades, and Africa was no different from this. As soon as Marlow reaches the Company's station, he sees that although the colonists are supposed to be "emissaries of light, something like a lower sort of apostle" (76), and "wearning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways" (76), no real work is being done. He sees "a cast artifical hole somebody had been digging on the slope, the purpose of which I found it impossible to divine" (81), and "objectless blasting" (80) towards a cliff not in the way, along with a brickmaker who doesn't make bricks. The only one who achieves anything at all is the company's chief accountant, and he simply keeps up a starched and clean appearance, which impresses Marlow because of his contrast with "the great demoralization of the land" (83). So, Marlow quickly learns that everything is not as it seems; although the colonists are supposed to be bearers of light on the outside, no one seems to be achieving anything besides keeping up the facade, as the accountant does. Conrad seems to be foreshadowing that there are deeper things going on in this wilderness than meets the eye, and Kurtz comes to be associated with Marlow's desire for more knowledge. Conrad leads to this with occasional snippets of information about Kurtz which Marlow hears along his journey and which intrigue him.
    The closer he gets to Kurtz, the closer he seems to get to actual knowledge amidst the facades, and the climax of the novella. Once Marlow comes in contact with Kurtz, however, he refuses to fall into the trap of devotion. Conrad juxtaposes this with the Russian trader, whose blind devotion "came to him, and he accepted it with a sort of evil fatalism" (129). He refuses to let the "umpractical spirit of adventure" (129) rule him. So although Marlow is intrugued by the hype of Kurtz, he doesn't hop on the bandwagon yet but rather realizes this sort of blind devotion is fatal. He realizes that Kurtz, too, is not the beacon of light that he seems. With Marlow's experience involving Kurtz, he realizes that the darkness, although tempting to succumb to as Kurtz did, leads to self-corruption. He keeps his conscience, and although he breaks through the facades to discover the darkness within, both in the jungle and in himself, he doesn't let it overtake him.

    Adam G:
    I'm not sure if the situation with Kurtz's Intended at the end of the novella indeed exemplifies morality. That is one way to look at it, as a sort of compassionate action because he has saved the truth from her, which would damage her shrouded viewpoint of the world. However, I think this just continues to show the absurd beliefs of Victorian society. Kurtz's intended, as a woman, is perceived by Marlow as simply too week and fragile to know the truth about Kurtz. Sure, it would damage her, but through this I think Conrad is showing more of a continuation of Victorian ideology than an example of morality.

    3/19/2009 8:49:35 AM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Annie, I liked what you said about the closer Marlow gets to Kurtz, the closer he seems to get to actual knowledge amidst the facades which leads to the climax of the novella. Great job!

    3/19/2009 8:59:58 AM
  • Nathaniel B

    The mystery of Kurtz can symbolize learning about one's self. When Marlow begins his journey, he feels confident and aware of himself. As he encounters more and more conflicts and achieves a greater understanding of those around him, he begins to realize how little he understood about his own character. Specifically, through eveasdropping, Marlow learns a great deal about Kurtz. Kurtz is described as being innovative, ambitious, and smart. But when Marlow later discovers Kurtz's true nature, he realizes that the accomplishments which Kurtz had been revered for weren't comparable to how he had achieved them. Ultimately, this helped Marlow realize the difference between the values of Africa and the values of Europe. Thusly, Marlow was then able to decide which values he believed were important, enabling him to act upon them when he returned.

    3/19/2009 9:21:55 AM
  • Nathaniel B

    Natalie: I agree with your point that Kurtz doesn't learn about himself. Kurtz knew a great deal before arriving in Africa; however, he lacked moral obligation. Marlow, on the other hand, seems to be better equiped for understanding others. When ecountering Kurtz, he discovers Kurtz's lack of moral intellect and self realization.

    3/19/2009 9:28:35 AM
  • Weiss

    I believe that Conrad is trying to show us in the beginning of the novella that Marlow is a good man who is simply going into the jungle in order to gain some money for himself. This makes sense, as the ivory business would help his personal funds, and therefore makes sense to what hes doing. As Marlow gets further into the jungle, he sees the corruption that is occuring all around him and he begings to the the issues with the jungle. This is the first change that Conrad shows the reader, and symbolizes how Marlow is actually a good man. In conjunction with this, when Marlow meets Kurtz, he sees his issues, and by seeing his actually shows us more about Marlow himself (similar to many of Browning's works). Through the jungle and Kurtz Conrad shows the change the jungle has made on Marlow

    Fred- I agree with your opinion. I believe that through going into the jungle, that this shows the good head he has on his shoulders, but i belive that it is more than that. Yes, he is going into the jungle for money, but i believe that he wants a journey, and this journey creates the change that he undergoes.

    3/19/2009 1:32:25 PM
  • Caitlin

    The journey to find Kurtz and the understanding the mystery surrounding him is definitely a parallel to the process of discovering one's self. On his quest to meet the Chief of the Inner Station Marlow discovers much about himself and the Company's harsh role in "civilizing" the Natives. Marlow encounters scenes of cruelty and torture and is forced to face the brutality of colonization. Marlow is in between the extremes of Kurtz and the Company and is able to identify with both of them. Marlow's confrontation with the darkness within Africa and more importantly the darkness within himself leads him to suffer greatly. he goes to the brink of madness but pulls himself back in order to go on and tell his story. Through this novella Conrad brings up many moral issues in an effort to get the reader to take a look at themselves. When Conrad wrote the novella it was misinterpreted by many people in Victorian society. This is because they didn't want to see the evil within themselves.

    3/19/2009 2:57:27 PM
  • KatieB

    An eloquent response. I would tend to say, though, that although Kurtz's specific circumstances aren't necessarily relatable, his journey and Marlow's penetration of the mysteries surrounding him are related to the process of self-discovery. Truly knowing oneself means discovering every aspect of one's soul, even the "darknesses" within. Kurtz's experiences relate to the fears that live within us all. It is stated that Kurtz had "come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort" (69), and yet he descends into moral depravity and is forced to confront the cruelty that was within him. If "the path to hell is paved with good intentions", then doesn't Marlow's recognition of the fact that Kurtz has essentially lost any sense of morality reflect one of our deepest fears as humans? The idea that we can bring about our own downfall (not to mention the potential downfall of other people) is a heavy one, yet it is one that must be evaluated if we are to truly know ourselves...
    Also, I think Kurtz's journey relates to self-discovery in terms of our discovery of our relation to the rest of the world. Kurtz ultimately turns himself into a savage, even despite the fact that he was meant to be civilized and honorable. It establishes the idea of a common humanity -- though some may believe themselves to be superior to others, in the end everyone is human, everyone succumbs to death, and everyone has the potential for good, just as they have the potential for evil.
    Also, a general comment: The quote about Kurtz's "ivory face" as he is on his deathbed strikes me as interesting; the use of "ivory" to describe Kurtz's pallor as he approaches his death indicates that what was once Kurtz's strength (at least materially) is now his weakness, and it has managed to destroy him completely. This is another element of the novel relating to self-discovery.

    3/19/2009 4:55:50 PM
  • Kim

    We as the readers experience Marlow learning about Kurtz in the same way one learns about oneself. As Marlow's knowledge of Kurtz increases, he gains further knowledge and understanding of himself. At the beginning of the novel, Marlow states that the company "was run for profit" in response to his aunt's comments on "civilizing" the natives (14). This shows Marlow's nonchalant viewpoint on colonialization before he began his journey. However, after witnessing all of the atrocities of which colonialization actually consisted, and learned the truth about what kind of man Kurtz was, Marlow's perspective changed. Kurtz got caught up in the temptation and greediness of imperialism, and only came to terms with it fully a moment before death when he exlaims, "The horror! The horror!" (85). Marlow realizes this, and through Conrad's use of interior/exterior motifs, he also realizes that his previous impression of Kurtz, a shallow exterior view, was completely opposing to Kurtz's inner character. With this knowledge, Marlow understands that although faced with similar temptations, he would not fall into the same trap as Kurtz. He also comprehends the dark interior truth concerning imperialism, which contrasted greatly with the white and pure perspective generally accepted by Western Europe at that time.

    3/19/2009 5:30:01 PM
  • Kim

    Annie, I agree with your comment that Marlow's witholding of information from Kurtz's intended was not a purely moral action. At the beginning of the novella, when Marlow is talking to his aunt, he says "It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own... some confounded fact we men have been living with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over" (14). This clearly shows Marlow's opinion on how women think. Should Marlow have told the intended the truth at the end of the novel, it would have shown that his perspective changed. His decision to tell her a white lie to "protect" her demonstrates his view has not faltered.

    3/19/2009 5:37:22 PM
  • Reagan

    I think they're very similar in the novella, but largely because Marlow is learning about himself because of his mysterious journey to find Kurtz. He is learning about himself because he is learning all of these things on his journey and he is applying them to himself...because that is what people do. When someone learns a new piece of information or gain some new insight, they try to apply it to themselves, and relate it to something that has happened to them or use it to spark some big revelation in their own life; and that is exactly what I think happens in Heart of Darkness.
    That being said, Marlow's growth is paralleled to the process of finding and learning about Kurtz. The big thing about finding Kurtz is that everything is a big mystery and Marlow doesn't quite know everything, and finding one's self is also a somewhat mysterious don't know what you're looking for and you don't know what's coming next. So in that way, they are the same.

    3/19/2009 7:10:42 PM
  • Ashley

    Re: Julie

    I agree that learning the truth about Kurtz considered with learning the truth about himself. The line between civilized and savage world often confuses Marlow. By the end of his journey, as you have pointed out, Marlow has discovers that the two worlds have a lot in common.

    3/19/2009 8:16:24 PM
  • Kyle Hunter

    Yes, I do believe that Marlow’s process of learning about Kurtz and the mystery of Kurtz can also symbolize the process of learning about himself. When the narrator is telling the story of Marlow’s journey into the “heart of darkness”, it seems to get darker and darker as Marlow travels deeper and deeper into the Congo. As a result, Marlow learns more about himself, the journey, and Kurtz. Kurtz had made the same trip before and Marlow is able to gain knowledge about Kurtz as his journey continues. “We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of drums behind the
    curtain of trees would run up the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our heads, till the first break of day” (52). Marlow is explaining the difficulties of the journey and the obstacles that he must go through. As Marlow travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally up the river to the Inner Station, he encounters scenes of torture, cruelty, and near-slavery. At the very least, the incidental scenery of the book offers a harsh picture of colonial enterprise. Also, the force behind Marlow's adventures has to do with the hypocrisy inherent in the rhetoric used to justify imperialism. Marlow learns about this hypocrisy in his journey and later when he meets Kurtz. Kurtz and this hypocrisy are one in the same.

    Fred: I agree with what you said but you could go into more detail about your points. The result of the hypocrisy of imperialism in the novella is significant to both Marlow and Kurtz. Kurtz and this hypocrisy are one in the same and Marlow is able to learn from this and gain knowledge about Kurtz. Also, as Marlow travels further and further into the jungle he discovers harsh things about is able to learn about Kurtz because of the journey that he had taken before too. I think you had good points, but just needed to explain them more and justify them.

    3/19/2009 9:01:33 PM
  • Molina

    I definitely agree that as Marlow learned more about Kurtz he was also learning about himself. I think that at the beginning of "Heart of Darkness", Conrad gives Marlow the characteristics of a child. Marlow's fascination with Kurtz begins when he hears about him from the accountant, "One day he remarked, without lifting his head, 'In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz...'"(66). From this point on, everywhere Marlow turns someone is speaking of Kurtz, whether positively or negatively. In this sense, Marlow is somewhat like a child, he continues to listen to others speak about this man, not knowing what to make of their viewpoints on this individual, and his fascination for Kurtz seems to be quite unreasonable. The change in Marlow's character begins to take place when Marlow talks to Kurtz alone on the steamer and this change goes full circle when Marlow ponders his encounter with Kurtz after Kurtz's death. At the end of the novella, Marlow states, "This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it...And perhaps in this is the whole difference; perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment in time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible"(140-141). It is at this very instant that Marlow comprehends his fascination with Kurtz and through this understanding, figures out what he feels he needs to accomplish. Joseph Conrad uses the character of Kurtz in order for Marlow to find himself.

    3/19/2009 9:37:43 PM
  • Molina

    Caitlin: I agree with your response. Throughout Marlow's journey he learns a huge amount from the characters and situations he encounters. Every time Marlow experiences something, he becomes closer to understanding himself.

    3/19/2009 9:41:38 PM
  • Arron

    I think that the underlying theme of darkness in the novella is one that pervades both the literal and metaphorical story most deeply and completely, and could quite possibly be the most important underlying message that Conrad is trying to convey to the reader. There is a bit of darkness inside of everyone, and the choice of whether or not we give into this darkness and act upon it is the one that Conrad is getting at the most with this book. As Kurtz serves as the example for a person who has taken the path of giving into this darkness, we have the protagonist Marlow who conversely, takes the opposite action, and steers clear of this, seeing the err of the ill-treatment of the natives, and stopping it before the pleasures that come with giving into the darkness are able to grip him and pull him in completely. This is Conrad's way of highlighting the importance of being able to resist temptation and be able to shy away from things that give short term gain, at the long term expense of others.

    3/19/2009 9:54:39 PM
  • Arron

    I like your take on Marlow's struggle as being stuck between two entities, the company and Kurtz, and is forced to the brink of madness, before he is able to see what is going on and bring himself back in, as this illustrates the point made in the prompt for this blog entry very well. Noting this aspect of the book allows the reader to take a different perspective of what the Author may have been trying to convey, and certainly prompts them to look within themselves.

    3/19/2009 10:00:16 PM
  • M. Scott

    Marlow can also be read as a bridge between the two extremes of Kurtz and the Company. He is moderate enough to allow the reader to identify with him, yet open-minded enough to identify at least partially with either extreme. Thus, he acts as a guide for the reader. Marlow's bridging of mediating position can be seen in his eventual illness and recovery. Unlike those who truly confront or at least acknowledge Africa and the darkness within themselves, Marlow does not die, but unlike the Company men, who focus only on money and advancement, Marlow suffers horribly. He is thus “contaminated” by his experiences and memories.

    Kurtz is utterly lacking in substance. Marlow refers to Kurtz as “hollow” more than once. This could be taken negatively, to mean that Kurtz is not worthy of a second thought of a further investigation of his character. However, it also points to Kurtz's ability to function as a anchoring point to the world for Marlow: in his essential emptiness, he becomes a cipher, a site upon which other things can be projected. This emptiness should not be read as literally but more figuratively , however, just as Kurtz's eloquence should not be allowed to overshadow the malice of his actions. Instead, Kurtz provides Marlow with a set of paradoxes that Marlow can use to evaluate himself and the Company's men.

    Kurtz can also been seen as a symbol to show the process of learning about him can also symbolize the process of learning about one's self. we see at the beginning of the novella that kurtz is a benovelt man with many high expectations and desires. we see the jungle and the darkness change kurtz by consuming him and making his heart evil and lost. By the end of the novella, the last line actually be hear kurtz say, "The horror, the horror". This statement shows that Kurtz has grown to realize what he and the company have done to corrupt themselves as well as the natives that they have enslaved to work for the company. This single action changes the outcome and the moral of the story. The symbolic representation of the jungle fighting back express the people's free will and the suppression that they have overcome,

    3/19/2009 11:00:01 PM
  • Chelsey!!!YAY OUR LAST BLOG EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The novella Heart of Darkness explores the evil of human beings and the light and darkness each person has within them. It does this by exploring the idea of having to choose between two evils. Marlow has to choose between colonial bureaucracy and siding with Kurtz.
    “The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz's life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. . . . I saw the time approaching when I would be left alone of the party of 'unsound method.'” This quote is from when the steamer heads back from the Inner Station. Both Kurtz and ivory is on board representing the evilness that is in Kurtz and the exploration for ivory. The boat is also traveling upon a brown river. The river represents Marlow’s separation from Africa and the fact that he is headed back to white civilization. The dark colour symbolizes the fact that he is going back to the darkness, he is being separated from the light. It also shows that the darkness will be with him because he has experienced the evilness of being part of Kurtz’s party. Through out the novella Marlow is more interested in the surface of the trip instead of what they symbolize, yet eventually he sees the deeper meanings. "The horror! The horror!" Is the last thing Kurtz’s ivory face says. This use of the word ivory symbolizes that the ivory is the horror, uncovering the darkness that has been covered up with lies. Marlow learns that he could end up with the same ill fate as Kurtz. Through Marlow has been affected by Kurtz and shares similarities he can separate and go away from the darkness of society.

    I agree with your perspectives and insights into the novella. I like how you showed how Marlow felt before meeting Kurtz and how his perspectives changed. I think that it helped to show how Marlow changed throughout the novella. You did a great job at showing the adoration and interest Marlow found in Kurtz in the beginning thus showing how Marlow identifies with Kurtz. By mentioning how Marlow first feels about the company just trying to make profit also shows the change of how he ends up questioning the cruelty of the situations he encountered.

    3/19/2009 11:02:36 PM
  • M. Scott

    Nathaniel, I agree with your statement. The more knowledge we obtain the harder it is to revert ourselves back to what is right. a prime example of this is the story of Adam and Eve. The temptation of knowing was too great even though they knew it was wrong. They had to know so they took some fruit from the tree of knowledge. This concept is the same within Kurtz's mind. he battles with the thoughts of the jungle finally submitting to its darkness and its eventually corruption that Kurtz and the company brought upon the jungle and themselves

    3/19/2009 11:09:40 PM
  • Pruthvi

    To begin with Marlow does learn more about himself through this journey to Africa than anyone else. This refers to the reference to Plato and his opinion that you have to visit the outside world before you can know about your own world (50). Y traveling to Africa, Marlow discovers how his society treats others and the greed that has taken over the minds of others that work with him.
    Conrad uses Kurtz as a foil that Marlow uses himself to prevent himself from bring consumed by this desire for ivory. We see throughout the novel that Marlow looks at Kurtz with disgust for the way the natives are treated by the company. “… this insight type is important, (they fell this was good.(50).

    3/20/2009 12:38:45 AM
  • Ford

    Yes, I feel that the journey can symbolize learning about oneself. As Marlow journies into the heart of the African Congo he becomes more and more interested in the character Kurtz, almost to the point of obsession. The deeper he journies, the more he realizes Kurtz isn't the idealic figure he has been portrayed to be by some. Through this experience he learns a lot about himself, imperialism, and human nature. He learns how someone or something percieved as good and civilized in European civilization can have the worst brought out in it, as exemplified by Kurtz. Kurtz comes to symbolize everything that is wrong with imperialism. The greed and chaos of imperialism in Africa corrupts Kurtz and brings out the uncivilized monster inside of him. In a sense it was good Marlow looked towards Kurtz as the key to discovering truth amid the chaos surrounding him, because in the end it was the horror of becoming Kurtz that saved him from falling over the brink into moral relativism. I think this lesson can be generally applied, and symbolize the internal quest of every man into his own heart.

    3/20/2009 12:46:23 AM
  • Ford


    I am very impressed by your insight into Conrad's true message in this novella. The theme of darkness is the most important in the novel for communicating Conrad's take on human nature. There is darkness inside of us which, given the opportunity, could surface and do great harm should we fail to resist the temptation. The moral demise of the character Kurtz allows Marlow to steer clear of a similar path, and I think the author is asking the reader to look inside ones own heart and beware similar fate.

    3/20/2009 1:08:23 AM
  • Pruthvi

    RE: Molina
    I agree with you that the journey causes Marlow top experience the full cycle of life. I also agree that Kurtz plays an important role in the process of self-discovery for Marlow. I had just not thought of it as a full cycle before.

    3/20/2009 4:51:57 AM
  • Branden

    I feel that undertaking a journey, such as Marlow did, can pinpoint the underlying meaning between Marlow and Kurtz. As Marlow progresses throughout much of the novella, he travels in many “dark” places since Africa, England, and Brussels are all described as gloomy and somehow dark, even if the sun is shining brightly. As Marlow searches for Kurtz, he learns from others what darkness really is. Darkness is the inability to see, but can be also considered metaphorically. The crew and Marlow himself, fail to see the natives and women as other human being, which means that they fail to understand that individual and failing to establish any sort of sympathetic communion with him or her. Kurtz apparently suffers through madness as a result of imperialism. Africa is responsible for mental disintegration as well as for physical illness. Kurtz, Marlow is told from the beginning, is mad. However, as Marlow, and the reader, begin to form a more complete picture of Kurtz, it becomes apparent that his madness is only relative, that in the context of the Company insanity is difficult to define. Thus, both Marlow and the reader begin to sympathize with Kurtz and view the Company with suspicion. However, when Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he is so ashamed of what happened, that he strived to stay away from those ideologies, which ultimately saved him from darkness.

    I agree with most of your response on how Marlow’s journey is undertaken by darkness. It is true that Marlow travels along the river in search of Kurtz, and his travels slowly develop the nature of Europeans. The ideas of green and imperialism are defined well, and the process of finally meeting it, such as Marlow meeting Kurtz, brings a shocking moment to Marlow, and metaphorically ,” saves his life”.

    3/20/2009 6:49:23 AM
  • Bible

    Throughout this novella Marlow is recalling an event that happened, his journey down the Congo River. He is learning about himself throughout his recollection of this journey. "I was not used to get things that way, you know" (43). Here he is learning something about himself right at the beginning of the novella. Similarly Marlow is learning about Kurtzs in the same way he is learning about himself. Marlow never really uinderstands kurtzs. he learns small things about him, but he is never to piece together who Marlow really is. Marlow learns about Kurtz in the same way he learns about himself, through stories and actions.

    3/20/2009 7:45:36 AM
  • Bible

    Lauuuura I like at the end you said "Joseph conrad uses the character of Kurtz in order for Marlow to find himself." That sums up pretty much everything about the journey and how the purpose of the journey was for Marlow to find himself. And that Marlow learned about himself through learning about Kurtz.

    3/20/2009 7:49:54 AM
  • Brooke

    throughout the novella, it is clear that there is an obvious tansformation of Marlow. it explors the evils inside everyone. Marlow is in a constant battle between what is evil and what is not."And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth" in the beginning, he has been given a almost child-like personality and is sent on a journey. he is sent to the Congo to find Kurtz, but along the way becomes more intrested in the depth of the Congo. this could be seen as a transformation of the superficial desires of the Company. Also the "savages" helped him make his transformation. Marlow was surprised that they didnt eat the white people even though the savages were cannibols. this shows the darkness of Marlows own heart since he was content with labeling them as "savages" even thought the Eurpoeans contained more savage like characteristics. yet the transformation comes to a close when the reader can see the the difference between Kurtz and Marlow. Kurtz lived in the darkness of the Congo and Marlow was told that he was "mad". but when the reader gets to learn about the whole character of Kurtz, we can understand that his insanity is just the Company's way of catorigizing Kurtz. Marlow is,however, is saved from the outside darkenss thanks to Kurtz. Marlow is able to conquer "the horror, the horror" which can show the internal conquest of Man's inner heart of darkness.

    3/20/2009 7:53:06 AM
  • Brooke

    I agree with u that Kurtz is the foil for Marlow. Kurtz prevents Marlow from being consumed by the darkness as well as superficial desires of ivory.

    3/20/2009 7:57:44 AM
  • Karina

    I agree that in the process of learning about Kurtz, we also lear about ourself. Kurtz is first portrayed as the man that wanted to bring the "light" to the jungle, as a man of princples, whose goal was to bring civilization. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he realizes that Kurtz has become a degenerated form of himself. Kurtz falls into temptation of newfound power and greed. Marlow learns Kurtz true nature. Kurtz is the embodiment of Europe and it values. His transformation from a man of ideals to man overwhelmed with power and greed. This leads to Marlow's realization that one's demise comes within oneself if not careful.

    3/20/2009 12:11:46 PM
  • Melissa L

    I have a little different take on Kurtz, as in I feel like there is no true Kurtz to actually ‘find’. Kurtz is lacking in any true personality, and Marlow’s attempts to find the ‘true’ Kurtz ultimately lead us to this conclusion. How does Conrad show us this? Through his style, revealing little bits on information on Kurtz one by one, providing us with just enough information to dram conclusions about him, when then new information is revealed and we must revise our conclusions. Marlow refers to Kurtz as “hollow” (112) more than once. This alludes to this fact, that Kurtz I s nothing but a shell that others project onto him what they wish to see. Kurtz's cousin, the Belgian journalist, and Kurtz's fiancée demonstrate, there seems to be no true Kurtz. To his cousin, he was a great musician (142); to the journalist, a brilliant politician (143); to his fiancée, a great all-around person and genius (146). To Marlow, he is something else completely. To this extent, I feel like is could symbolize searching for one’s true self. Often as teenagers, we may feel as if we are just the projections of what other people want/perceive us to be. Kurtz is the product of everyone else’s expectations and hopes, and that what learning about oneself often results in.

    3/20/2009 3:42:48 PM
  • Melissa L

    I don’t believe that Marlow was trying to go into the jungle for personal benefit and the discovery of ivory, it says early on that he was fascinated by the ‘snake’ (Congo River) and the ‘blank spaces’ on the map. (51). If Marlow was in it for just the money, I believe he would have been corrupted by the evil in the jungle, for the money would have demanded that he stayed there. The fact the he went voluntarily of his own accord for the adventure and the knowledge is important, because it is the knowledge of what is going on that horrifies him and makes him the foil of Kurtz. Money alone wouldn’t have had this beneficial impact on him; he would’ve swung the other way. However, I do agree that upon meeting Kurtz Conrad demonstrates Marlow’s actual character, and yes in this way we do find our more about our own characters by the same processes

    3/20/2009 3:49:11 PM
  • Sara

    I believe that the mystery of Kurtz and Marlow's process of learning about himself are related. The journey to find Kurtz is parallel to the journey Marlow faces internally because as Marlow tells the tale of traveling into the darkness to find Kurtz, Marlow understands more and more how the darkness can take over the person and that the darkness is not only the physical setting in Africa, but it is also metaphorical because darkness lies in the inability to see the suffering that the natives are dealing with. The natives are hungry and over worked and have a different way of life than Marlow is used to seeing in Europe causing him to at first think that the people and their behavior are dark. However, as he retells the story aboard the Nellie about his journey into the darkest place on earth, he realizes that the place isn't dark, but being in the dark atmosphere eats away at a person making them the dark ones. Marlow realizes that Kurtz wasn't a bad person to begin with, but the darkness of the jungle turned him in to someone who just wanted ivory and the money that came along with it and does not notice what has happened to him until he is dying and utters "The horror! The horror!" (85). Marlow, unlike Kurtz, is able to see the destructive nature of the dark jungle and avoids becoming like Kurtz. Through the journey to find Kurtz, Marlow learns about his self.

    I think that Marlow goes into the jungle because he wants money, but also because he has an obsession with Kurtz because he has heard that he is such a great man. However, I think that Marlow realizes the tempations that the jungle has and the effects it can have on people before he meets Kurtz and by noticing the possibility of coruption the jungle presents at an early point in his journey he is able to fight off the darkness that has affected Kurtz.

    3/20/2009 7:29:35 PM
  • Lauren Z

    I believe that Kurtz is the primary example of the type of person that no one wants to become but who everyone has inside of them. Kurtz not only lives within the darkness of the jungle, but he allows this darkness to overcome his character and all of his morals, and in so doing, creates distruction, death, and mayhem as a result. Kurtz forgoes the high class societal morals of the Europeans and instead reverses to savage ways, which we assume might even be more brutal than the savages that he takes advangtage of. By killing them he signifies that the darkness has taken control of him, which Marlow very easily notices when he sees him. Marlow realizes that Kurtz is what he could become if he is not totally aware of the situation that he is in; that imperialism does more harm in good, and that power can overcome the best of characters.

    3/22/2009 7:46:00 PM
  • Lauren Z

    Sara, I agree with your connection between the journey to find Kurtz being parallel to the journey Marlow faces internally. Marlow realizes that the location he is in is not dark, but that the Europeans and the way that they treat the so called "savages" distorts the location into seeming that way. He realizes that they have let imperialism and power go to their heads, and it has caused them to do things that they would never be able to get away with in another location or in Europe.

    3/22/2009 7:51:04 PM
  • Rachel

    Through a physical journey one arrives to the metaphysical aspect. Marlow's journey can be seen as a metaphor as to how an individual comes to learn about their own darkness. If we say that meeting Kurtz was mysterious with regards to its purpose then we can see that a parallel to that would be the fashion in which one come to learn of the darkness within. No one knows initially what it is until an experience brings us to the choice of following the darkness or merely peeking into it. As we see Marlow discover Kurtz and his surroundings we see that in the end he chooses to no follow the darkness, leaving the congo and going back to "civiliaztion". Though before he returns home he sees Kurtz's intended and tells her about his death and last words. Telling a white lie and hiding Kurtz's true way of life. Marlow says that it was her name that he whispered instead of, "the horror the horror".

    3/22/2009 10:07:01 PM
  • Dannyboy

    As the novel progresses, its portrayal of characters changes from shallow and one dimensional to deep and multi dimensional. In the beginning we are only told things from a societal point of view...people are characterized by the things society says, not who the people truly are. Kurtz is said to be "a very remarkable person" (31) who is one of the Company's prized employees who "Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together" (31). At the same time all we learn about Marlow, as well as all Marlow see's himself as, is a journeyman in search of an adventure. As well as shallow characterization, Marlow is only interested in the surfaces of things (for example "foreign shores" (5)). He has no interest in what lies beyond the shores, as he does once he enters the Congo and traverses the river. As he is continuing on his journey, Marlow and Kurtz are both characterized in a deeper respect. We come to see that Marlow represents the happy medium between the Company (Victorian Society) and Kurtz (natural instinct of man). He starts his journey as being part of Victorian society, but by the end, understands just how horrid man’s natural instinct is. This is seen when Conrad uses Kurtz’s dying words to portray to both the audience and Marlow what true human instinct is like. Both Kurtz and Marlow realize what the “darkness” has done to Kurtz when Kurtz says “I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless dispair...he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: 'The horror! The horror!'” (69).

    3/23/2009 10:16:36 AM
  • Dannyboy

    I think you have a really good point in that fact Kurtz is just a vessel that Conrad uses to show us how "light" results in expectations and perceptions being projected upon people, and making them seem like someone they really aren't (as teenagers feel like you stated). Once Marlow sees Kurtz "in the dark", his true nature (which Conrad uses to symbolize as man's true instinctive nature) comes out and is a very horrible thing. Kurtz is a means used by Conrad to demonstrate to his readers what isolation does to a man, and what effect society has on our perceptions of people as well as how we act. This is what Marlow's journey of self-discovery has taught him, but yet he chooses, when he returns to society, to not spread this knowledge.

    3/23/2009 10:21:33 AM
  • Seymour

    I believe that the novella The Heart of Darkness can be seen as a journey into the thoughts and processes of Marlow. As Marlow begins his adventure into Africa, he begins to learn more about himself and Kurtz, the man he is trying to reach. As the novella progresses, the imagery gets darker and darker, as we encounter seens of torture, near-slavery, and cruelty. We also seem to get more and more into the mind of Marlow. We understand more about him as he learns about himself.
    Kurtz undertook the same journey years before, and thus Marlow is bascially Kurtz but in the future. As Marlow travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally into the Inner Station, he learns about Kurtz. Since Marlow is essentially Kurtz in the future, he is learning more and more about himself. Thus as he learns more about himself we learn more about him. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he sees some of the faults that Kurtz possesses. When a person sees faults in another person, it helps them highlights their own faults.

    3/23/2009 10:38:03 AM
  • Seymour

    Fred, I agree with you in that when Marlow met Kurtz it helped him discover more about himself. By seeing the faults that Kurtz possessed it allowed Marlow to try and see which faults he had. I believe that you could have gone into more detail when you were talking about Marlow's actual journey into Africa. The journey into the wilderness helps Marlow discover many things about himself and those people around him. This only became more apparent the farther Marlow traveled into Africa.

    3/23/2009 10:44:09 AM
  • Sean

    A few people are saying that the heart in "Heart of Darkness" refers to the Congo, or the heart of Africa. In addition, there are remarks that the darkness refers to the evilness invoked from the natives in the congo. However, if you look throughout the novels, the cannibals truly seem like the victims of British colonialization. In fact, it is the pilgrims who treat the natives with disrespect and apathy, and the ones who throw away the hippopotamus meat. I believe the title actually refers to the greed and envy that arises from within the hearts of ones souls, especially when put into a situation of power as Kurtz is in the novella. Kurtz gives into this temptation. The wealth and power that surrounds Kurtz eventually consumes him, but his evil nature does not come from result of his surroundings, but rather is manifested from within him... within his soul, or his "Heart of Darkness."

    3/23/2009 1:20:56 PM
  • Erin

    I agree as well with the idea that as Marlow’s knowledge of Kurtz expands, his knowledge of himself is deepened as well. As marlow’s understanding is deepened near the end of the novella, he realizes that Kurtz is not all he’s said to be by others. Marlow is given images of what others believe Kurtz to be, which, as they come together and form something that does not make sense, lead marlow to doubt not only Kurtz’s true self, but himself and his own opinions and memories. Here, his perception of Kurtz is changed-he repeatedly refers to Kurtz as being “hollow” throughout the novella. This is where the darkness, the separation between Kurtz and marlow, emerges-while marlow learns who Kurtz was and has become, he is able to recognize and avoid this darkness, rather than become trapped in it.

    3/23/2009 7:12:56 PM
  • Erin

    I liked how you went into detail about the darkness as a metaphor. The ambiguity of the “darkness” mentioned throughout the novella also relates to the title of the book: the heart of darkness, meaning deep into the jungle and all of the horrors associated with it; and also the darkness that is in the hearts of the characters who are blind to the suffering of the natives within the heart of darkness that is the jungle.

    3/23/2009 7:17:49 PM
  • Nick

    I believe that the mystery of Kurtz and the process of learning about him can also symbolize the process of learning about one's self. The discovery of one's self is often shrouded in mystery much like Marlow's discovery of Kurtz was shrouded in mystery. It begins with a vague understanding based on information that others tell you, and as time goes on and you get closer and closer to the truth you begin to realize the true nature of yourself. From this knowledge you can choose to accept who you are or you can strive to change yourself for the better. Much like this process, Marlow begins his pursuit of Kurtz by hearing about him from others and becomes interested his mystique. From the information he was given, Marlow began his journey into the heart of darkness idolizing Kurtz and hoping to be as successful as him in the ivory business, and to oneday be like him. However, as he gets closer to the truth and the nature of Kurtz, he realizes how dark and dangerous Kurtz and his business really is. He sees the risks involved and the consequences of Kurtz actions in the physical state of Kurtz when they first meet. As Kurtz dies, Marlow has realized how the evil of the heart of darkness has corrupted Kurtz and chooses not to succumb to the temptation of the dangerous lifestyle Kurtz chose to lead. Marlow realized these temptations were surrounding him and that he needed to avoid such things in order to not let them define who he will become. He realized that he was not like Kurtz and no longer wanted to be like Kurtz and thus defended against the temptation. Much like the example I began with, Marlow changed the way he did things and changed the temptations surrounding him for the better and left the heart of darkness with full knowledge of himself and a satisfied passage to this knowledge with the help of his passage to understanding who Kurtz really was.

    3/23/2009 8:25:49 PM
  • Nick

    Sean, i agree with your interpretation of Kurtz' last words, "The horror! The horror!" This is indeed a representation of Kurtz realizing the horrible things he has done in the Congo and feeling remorse for them. Just as he was dying he probably saw his life flash before his eyes and repented for the horrible things he has done. Marlow in seeing this realized two things that allowed him to not succumb to the temptations that surround him and the heart of darkness. First, he realized that Kurtz was a bad person for the fact that he died as a result of trying so hard to get rich from the exploitation of the natives and imperialism. Upon realizing this he sees that this is not what he wants to become and alters his perspective for the better. Second, Marlow realizes that Kurtz was blown away by the horrible things that he had done and can only utter the words, "The horror! The horror!" For a person as corrupt as Kurtz was to feel such pain from just recalling all the things he has done, Marlow knows that the temptations surrounding him can be nothing but bad. This leads me to agree also with Sean's reference to Buddha in saying that nothing good can come out of striking another because it will just hurt me. By succumbing to the evils of imperialism, Marlow will just end up like Kurtz and hurting himself by leading the same path that Kurtz did. So by realizing the true nature of Kurtz he succeeds in realizing his true self and saving himself from evil.

    3/23/2009 8:36:37 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Great job Nick! I really enjoyed reading this blog.

    3/23/2009 8:48:08 PM
  • Devin

    Yes i feel that the journey Marlow experienced can be seen as a journey to find one's self. Marlow begins his journey as a typical imperialistic European. Growing up only knowing one way to think. He then decides to become a boat captain and enter "the Heart of Darkness". As he journeys farther down the river and farther into Africa he begins to see the horrors and faults of imperialism. He also learns of Kurtz and becomes obsessed with this man who has become legend among ivory traders. As he gets closer and closer to his goal of meeting Kurtz we see his desires to gain control of him. Once he meets Kurtz he sees the flaws not only in Kurtz who was supposed to be perfect, but he also sees the flaws within himself and is able to stop and regain control before desire takes control of all of his actions. Marlow is able to escape this "heart of darkness" and see the true horror behind the stories, and that the Europeans are at fault. He leaves with Kurtz who shortly dies on the boat ride back. Marlow who obsessed over just getting the chance to meet Kurtz is confronted with the horror that has taken hold of this man who was supposed to be the perfect image of everything that was right with ivory trading. Marlow escapes back to his old life and is able learn from his experience to become a better person.

    3/24/2009 12:40:08 AM
  • Devin

    Fred i agree with your statement that Marlow meeting Kurtz allows him to see his own faults and how he had changed just making it down the river, but i feel that he saw him as much more than an intellectual initially. Marlow saw Kurtz as the man he should be by the end of his career and when Kurtz was not what Marlow was expecting it crushed him and forced him to take a deeper look at himself and the European conquest of Africa. Seeing the true Kurtz helped change Marlow for the better and the rest of his life.

    3/24/2009 12:47:03 AM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Devin, I agree with your comment that Marlow saw Kurtz as the man he should be by the end of his career. It is true that when Kurtz was not what Marlow was expected it crushed him and forced him to take a deeper look at himself and the European conquest of Africa.

    3/24/2009 6:45:18 AM
  • Chris

    Marlow's journey is not only a physical one but also to show personal growth as a person. Marlow's trip is also used to show the differences and similarities between the "civilized" world and the more savage jungle that Marlow is now traveling into. The trip allows Marlow to realize that these seemingly different areas are in fact extremely similar, and through the humans present in each the worlds mirror each other. Not only does the reader learn about marlows growth but also through many characters views we learn more of the character Kurtz. In the beginning Kurtz is described to Marlow as a remarkable person, or this very high figure that anyone could look up to. Automatically we see here that people are viewing Kurtz as successful because of his wealth. Not necessarily because of what hes done, but how much he has. But Marlow sees the result of measuring ones wealth in this way after he finally meets Kurtz. Who, since living in Africa, has become ruthless and much like the savages that he persecuted before. Because of this eventual realization Marlow is able to distinguish between the journey that he is taking and the one he was visualizing. Also to not i thought it was interesting how Conrad gave two different aspect of one man (Kurtz) through Marlows eyes and then reality, and he also gives to very different approaches towards the savageness of the jungle he is adventuring through.

    3/24/2009 9:41:14 AM
  • Chris

    i agree with Erin in the sense that the journey Conrad provides us not only one of physical adventuring but a personal venture as well. Marlow enters the jungle a certain type of man, experiences all of these things and recieves all this new information that clouds a once glamorized image he had of Kurtz, and at the conclusion he is a different man then the one he was initially. I think Marlow realizes that this idea of misinterpreted images, can translate into everyday life too not just his view of Kurtz.

    3/24/2009 9:46:03 AM
  • Kyle Fikki

    I think that in this novella, Heart of Darkness, we are finding the ideas and the processes that Marlow has. The Journey into the wilderness helps Marlow gain a better image of who he really is. He was able to see Kurtz’s problems, and then reflect that upon himself in order to see his own problems. This allows the reader to learn more about Marlow through Marlow learning about himself. We see that Marlow realizes that Kurtz is not really what people say he is. The novella shows that Marlow see’s what he may become in Kurtz, and that allows him to become someone less affected by the evil we see in the novel.

    3/24/2009 10:39:57 AM
  • Kyle Fikki

    I think that what you said about Marlow was interesting and true, in how finding Kurtz is related to Marlows own journey. Marlow finds that the reason for the Congo seeming like a dark and evil place of dark and evil people is really attributed to the European people and their affect on the native peoples. Considering that the people in the Congo were not white and not respected, the Europeans felt that they could treat them horribly. The darkness is brought about by the people who aren’t actually Dark which is an interesting contrast in the novella.

    3/24/2009 10:48:37 AM
  • Katie Storm

    As Marlow travels from the Outer Station to the Central Station and finally up the river to the Inner Station, he encounters scenes of torture, cruelty, and near-slavery.This is symbolizing his own physical journey. The fact that he can be tortured, and harmed, in his physical body allows us to see the aspect of the journey being more than just a spiritual, mental one. As the narrator states at the beginning of the text, Marlow is more interested in surfaces, in the physical outlook of an actual item or person than the further, deeper meaning held within. This also allows the readers to see Marlow's journey as a spiritual one, Marlow is learning to look beyond what the eye is to see, that there is hidden meaning in all objects and that his journey is of more importance than that of just finding Kurtz.

    3/24/2009 11:05:36 AM
  • Katie Storm

    Adam and Fred, I concur with your statement that the book is a tool for us to learn about ourselves. It does allow us to see that we in fact are part of a civilized society, that in fact allows us to make moral decisions while other people around the world are really savages. Kurtz has an issue with morals, while Marlow allows himself to gain insight in finding Kurtz himself.

    3/24/2009 11:08:31 AM
  • Aric Boucher

    Yes, I believe that Marlow's journey is one that epitomizes the journey of life. How can we ever truly live unless we know ourselves? If we walked through life shrouded in a mental mist, we'd be nothing more than puppets to the wills of those around us. The same happens if we let ourselves fall into the hands of these same controlling wills. Kurtz found that lesson out the hard way. All of the corrupting elements that he was surrounded by eventually twisted him into something different, something the true him would have found appalling. "The horror! The horror!" Just before the end, he woke up from the nightmare his life had turned into. Marlow, in his own journey to Kurtz, was witness to all of this, and as such he was able to peer into the very deepest part of the endless pit that is Darkness. Kurtz fell into it, and through his example of life Marlow learned what not to do, what not to become. His journey, as with so many others, taught him something about himself, and strengthened his true persona against the evils of the jungle. It's child's play to see why Marlow's journey can be synonymous with the journey that we all go through at some point or another.

    Sean: Your example with Buddha was perfect. Though you focused mostly on temptation, it still proved the point very well. Marlow was very resistant against the negative elements of Africa during his trip. Kurtz, I agree, easily fell to all the corruption around him. And as such, he became what he did not originally intend to become. Marlow had the wits to recognize his downfall and managed to power through any temptation he came across, just like a true Buddhist Monk (without the philosophy and one-liner life lessons, of course).

    3/24/2009 4:47:34 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Good Aric! Do you think that Marlowe's character can in any way be related to the reference to Plato seen early in the novella? How does the "Allegory of the Cave" correspond to our understanding of Marlowe's internal journey?

    3/24/2009 6:24:31 PM
  • Rachel

    Katie Storm:
    I agree in that Marlow's journey is a mental one. We see him grow and learn more about himself. He learns to see past the appearances. This can also be seen in the manner he finds the true intentions of the manager speaking about his ambitions.

    3/24/2009 8:23:35 PM
  • Collin O

    The process of learning about Kurtz may be similar to learning about oneself from a certain viewpoint, that everyone has darkness hidden inside of them. Marlow is fascinated by the appearance of the jungle, but the deeper he travels into the jungle, the more the darkness motif is emphasized and the more we learn about Kurtz. Viewing his journey as one of self discovery could mean discovering one's inner vices or evils, one's carnal self uninhibited by our society's morals. Marlow was not willing to go as far as Kurtz, and chose to remain 'civilized'. In so doing, he hides the darkness of man's inner self from Kurtz's wife. Marlow recognizes the darkness within, but does not fully embrace it. This is not a bad thing, it is merely a choice on Marlow's part, a choice that perhaps we all make throughout our lives.

    Aric: Which was the true Kurtz? Was he really once civil on the inside, or was there darkness lurking in his heart the whole time? One really has to ask whether man is a carnal or civil animal on the inside. Perhaps he was once civil inside, or at least he wanted to be, from his uttering of "The horror, the horror."

    3/24/2009 8:33:12 PM
  • Alana

    When Marlow begins his journey into Africa he is also beginning an internal journey within himself. Conrad allows for the reader to see this through the stories that Marlow tells and his point of view on the situations that arise. As Marlow begins his adventure into Africa, he begins to learn more about himself and Kurtz, the man he is trying to reach. As the novella progresses, the imagery gets darker and darker, as we encounter images of torture and cruelty. Once Marlow accepts the job to bring back Kurtz, he encounters scenes of torture, cruelty, and slavery as a direct result of colonization (17), at first he continues to disregard the negative effects colonization has and plans on completing the company’s desire to have Kurtz. Marlow initially didn’t have much enthusiasm to meet Kurtz, but his enthusiasm progressively increases with the description of multiple characters and the sense of mystery regarding his life and presence still in Africa (46). As Marlow acknowledges the wrongness of colonization as it brings great devastation to the natives and the life Kurtz endured, it becomes apparent that Marlow has learned a valuable lesson thus changing his attitude toward the company greatly. We also seem to get deeper into the mind of Marlow. We understand more about him as he learns about himself. arlow's journey through Africa demonstrates a change in his worldview.
    i agree that Marlow is going through a spiritual journey which makes him see things more clearly. Also the fact that Marlow has a greater interest in things beneath the surface.

    3/24/2009 10:37:56 PM
  • Everett Maness

    At the start, Marlow is somewhat infatuated with Kurtz. Similarly, when he first gets the job, he is excited about beginning. However, as he progresses, he becomes disillusioned with everything. The journey, Kurtz, and even begins to delve into a deal of self-discovery. I believe that his progression through the journey and through himself is mirrored in the change in opinion of Kurtz. As he learns more and more of Kurtz and the Ivory business with the Company, he also sees personally how the jungle can do that to even himself. Kurtz is the outward manifestation of both the sheer corruption of the Company, as well as that very savage that has the potential to awaken in Marlow. I believe that when Kurtz dies, so does the possibility that Marlow will turn out like Kurtz. This happens in order that we may learn the mistakes of imperialism. strangely enough, the secret of what happens in Africa is lost to the Company and Europe. However, it takes a metaphysical view to realize that in telling this story, Marlow has revealed to the listeners on the boat what he would not reveal to Kurtz's intended- what "The Horror" is.

    3/25/2009 12:01:36 AM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    A spiritual journey yes; but I don't think he is aware of it until the very nature of imperialsim unravels before his eyes! This awareness comes after a series of events which reveal the evil that lies within the heart of people/the company/Brussles/Europe!

    3/25/2009 6:09:07 AM
  • Karina

    Re: Regan
    I agree with you. We dont know what we are looking for or going to happen next. But when it does, we do use what experience we get from it and begin applying it. The not knowing point relates to the msytery of Kurtz in that as we find a about Kurtz, Marlow finds out alittle about himself.

    3/25/2009 7:54:45 AM
  • Jessica

    Personally, I do not believe that Marlow “doesn’t succumb to the darkness” as Kurtz did; I believe that he is equally affected by it. The only real difference is that Kurtz is physically dead sooner then Marlow is. At the beginning of the book, Conrad presents us with a Marlow that seems sickly (“yellow complexion” p.38) and alone, “a wanderer” (39). He does not give off the feeling of one who has gained peace or contentment with truth; rather, those around him say his story is “one of [his] inconclusive experiences” (42). In fact, I believe that it is the narrator and the readers that gain the most from Marlow’s experience. As for Marlow, he undergoes a metaphorical death at the end of his journey, and the best way to see it is to look again at his idea of lying. Marlow says that there is “a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies” (64). At first, he says that he went, for Kurtz, near enough to a lie, yet not quite lying. Take this and compare it to what happens at the end of the novella and you will see that Marlow made that finally step, and lied to Kurtz’s Fiancé. At that moment his “heart stood still, stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry” (124). After that the story ends with the coming of night (darkness). This in a small way mirrors the death of Kurtz, as after his final words the candle was blown out and he died. The one who is really sharing the story with us is the narrator and it is he who completes the hero’s circle and gains/spreads the knowledge. Marlow is still stuck in the darkness of the Congo and the hearts of corrupted men, continuously meditating on the events. The story of Marlow and Kurtz did serve the purpose of teaching the readers more about themselves. It’s only natural that we must look in others in order to know ourselves because the differences between people heighten or reveal parts of ourselves.
    Your comment about the savage potential in Marlow and the connection between that potential and Kurtz is a rather interesting point. It insinuates that Marlow and Kurtz can be seen as foils of one another: Marlow being the uncorrupted individual and Kurtz being the tainted and corrupted version of that individual, almost as two halves of a whole. It would make sense then that with Kurtz death, Marlow would be free of the darkness yet there is also the possibility that Kurtz never truly dies (only physically) and that his memory and presence still lie within Marlow. It could then be seen that with Kurtz’s death Marlow is forever captured by the darkness because he can no longer escape from Kurtz’s, which could be why he became so protective of Kurtz’s things.

    3/25/2009 4:24:18 PM
  • MrsBelindaBailey

    Jessica, I concur with your assessment of the enlightenment that is given by the narrator (the person telling the tale) and that of those listening on board 'The Nellie.' I think that they are the ones who gain the most from the recounting of Marlowe's tale. It is as if we learn along with him. Great work!!!!

    3/25/2009 4:42:41 PM
  • Everett Maness


    I agree with you that in Kurtz MArlow sees the example of what can happen to someone's "head" as the doctor in the beginning put it. i also tend to believe that seeing this example is not necessarily like looking into a mirror for marlow, but perhaps more like reading an ancient hieroglyph warning an explorer not to enter to booby-trapped tomb. however, for marlow it is a bit too late to not enter the tomb, but the most he can do (and which he does do) is grab some secrets and make it out of the tomb enlightened yet unscathed. interestingly enough, ur hero's way of giving back to society is by knowing the secrets and shielding us from them.

    3/26/2009 12:38:10 AM

Add comment






Notify me when new comments are added