Heart of Darkness Essay

Submitted By jdavis93
Words: 1125
Pages: 5

Guilt, disappointment and the fear behind Kurtz’s death

Jordan Davis
Mr. Allin
ENG 4U
March 3rd, 2012

Verbal statements may have multiple interpretations depending on one's perspective. In the novel, Heart of Darkness, Conrad makes the reader use his/her own knowledge to generate themes and emotions. Consistently, the theme of the horrific reality is mentioned throughout the novel. Joseph’s character, Kurtz, cries out, “The horror! The horror” (Conrad 86) during his last moments; however, there is no obvious meaning and leaves the reader to realize the ambiguity of the words. The horror that Kurtz is referring to is the guilt he and Marlow feel, the disappointment of dying, and the fear of the darkness. Guilt is often the result of strong emotional feelings that involve negativity.

When one makes a decision with negative consequences, one often experiences the emotion known as guilt. Joseph Conrad’s idea in this novel is to show the feeling of guilt through his characters' experiences working in the Congo. The character, Kurtz, is very good at what he brings to the Company; however, near his time of death he reflects on the inequality that is displayed towards the natives of the Congo. Marlow is careless when he receives his job in the Congo, due to the difference between the two lifestyles he has experienced at home and away from home, “While I stood horror-struck, one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees, and went off on all-fours towards the river to drink” (Conrad 20). This quote explains that Marlow witnesses a different type of behaviour by being in a diverse society and, naturally, he feels guilty about all of the aspects developed countries take advantage of with regard to undeveloped countries. Both Marlow and Kurtz know that what they are doing is unfair to the natives and the land, but they also know that it is their duty to obey the rules of the Company. Authority is a key component of the emotions that the ‘civilized’ and the natives are meant to experience, “It was an affirmation, a moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominable satisfactions. But it was a victory” (Conrad 88). The quote refers to some positive aspects of the Congo as well as some negative points, especially Marlow mentioning the terrors, which then turn to guilt throughout the journey. People at times are left with a feeling of guilt due to previous defeat in their lifetime, possibly leaving them displeased.

Most people have goals in life that they want to accomplish before they die. In the novel, Kurtz is a respected man because of all he has been bringing to the Company. Although in his last moments of life, he looks back on his life that triggers him to evoke and grasp his true destiny. Before Marlow meets Kurtz, the manager says, “He will be somebody in the Administration before long. They, above – the Council of Europe, you know – mean him to be” (Conrad 23). The Company has great plans for Kurtz because he is the best at what he does and that is his ability to send in ivory. In the early 1800s, the largest resources in the Congo were ivory and rubber (Spooner 13). Marlow feels Kurtz’s pain as he cries out because everything that Kurtz ever accomplished is about to come crashing down and cut his life expectancy short, “All that had been Kurtz’s had been passed out of my hands; his soul, his body, his plans, his ivory, his career” (Conrad 91). This quote indicates that through Marlow’s eyes, there is a disappointing end to Kurtz’s life because of the expectations the Company and England wanted from him. The horror is shown in Kurtz’s death since his accomplishments were not at his best yet, and as he is dying with the feeling of guilt, Conrad creates the horror of his death. It is expressed to the reader that the remarkable man has reached his limits but is not happy with the end result of his death. By spending time in a new environment, a person’s ability…