Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 5 | Words: 1381
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The novel Hearts of Darkness by Joseph Conrad depicts the early resource exploitation by European exploiters in African. The main character in the novel is Marlow, English who is sent to Africa by one of the trading Companies in Europe dealing in Africa. Marlow’s opportunity arises after one of the Company’s captain is killed in a scuffle with an African native. He joins earlier explorers who had settled at the Congo. On his arrival, Marlow comes face to face with the atrocities which were being perpetrated against the native in the name of civilizing them. Many of these atrocities committed by whites against the natives could not happen back in Europe. Marlow set on his mission along the Congo River, where encountered numerous challenges including his steamship being attacked. Eventually, he comes into contact with one first-class agent named Kurtz who is both dreaded and adored within the company’s circles in the region. The encounter with Kurtz, who is sickly and dying, turns from mutual suspicion to trustful comradeship with Kurtz handing Marlow all his confidential documents. These documents are entrusted with Marlow which he gives to Kurtz’s superior and the rest to his intended back in Europe. The story ends with an inquisitive and devastated his intended keen to know from Marlow what befell her lover. Marlow who did not have a lot of love for Kurtz lie to the girl about all the good things he said and did before he died. Marlow is forced to lie to Kurtz’s girlfriend since she was devastated and had all good things to say about Kurtz. Marlow on the other hand knows he was lying.

Many of the characters are portrayed as humble originally in their country, but they turn out to be cruel when they are taken out of their society. The Danish whom Marlow was to replace back in Africa was “…was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two leg” (14). A number of years out in Africa, he had the urge to exert his authority by whacking an African mercilessly in front of his countrymen. The result was disastrous and would cause Fresleven’s his life. Greed was the main driving force behind the violence perpetrated on natives. Marlow admits he had “seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed … but…, these were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men—men, I tell you” (30). For one to excel in this trade, violence was inevitable.

Marlon is first introduced to the name Kurtz by the Company’s chief Accountant who was all praise for him. He refers him as first-class agent a “very remarkable person” (35). Accordingly, Marlon would learn that Kurtz had excelled in his work fetching more ivories than all other agents put together and was poised for higher post in the Company (36). Further down to the interior, Kurtz was favourably mentioned to Marlon. Perhaps he had started to form an opinion. But he was fascinated by this Mr. Kurtz. Marlon was indifference about Kurtz. He had heard a lot about Kurtz but pretended to feel about him the same way his narrators were. He lied though he detested doing so. He believed there is “a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies” (53).

Later when Marlon and Kurtz meet who was ill, Marlon would learn that Kurtz had plotted to assassinate him to avoid be his rescue. Eventually, Kurtz is boarded in Marlon’s vessel where he died later. Marlon detests Kurtz for his brutal way dealt with the natives in raiding for ivory. When one year later he present Kurtz fiancé with the pictures he had be given by Kurtz before his death, Marlon find it hard to tell her about Kurtz real character. Seeing how she was devastated and still in a morning mood, he told her good things about Kurtz. This was important not to conflict with her opinion about the man she loved so much. The lady is so inquisitive about her boyfriend’s last moments and what were his last words ‘‘His last word—to live with,’ ‘Don’t you understand I loved him—I loved him—I loved him!’  ‘I want—I want—something—something—to—to live with.’ (161). Marlon was faced with the unexpected and was not to betray the trust the she had in her. She reasoned that, if Kurtz was the only person he could entrust with his confidential documents, he must share with him the last of the most confidential words. She was confident.

Marlon was not intent of telling Kurtz girlfriend the true words that were his last, “horror! horror!”.  This perhaps was a reflection of his savagery in the course of duty in Africa. The atrocities and the raids, committed in the name of amassing more ivories for his company. Marlon hate to lie but he had to do it this time to satisfy Kurtz’s girlfriend expectations. He could not tell his intended about Kurtz’s savagely.

The choice of two nightmares is the two world people uprooted from their environment had to face. In their home environment, they are admirable and gentle to everyone. This is in contrast to their behavior outside of their country. The urge for survivor and greed for power are what cause these change. Moreover, the conditioning to violence when they are planted in a different environment change this original trait. Kurtz was a savage, different from what he was back home. He is portrayed as greedy and who could kill for money. Marlon’s Russian acquaintance tells him that, Kurtz wanted to kill him for a batch of ivories. “Well, I had a small lot of ivory the chief of that village near my house gave me. You see I used to shoot game for them. Well, he wanted it, and wouldn’t hear reason” (116). This is despite the fact that the Russian was acting as Kurtz’s physician on several occasions. The greed for money and fame surpasses friendship in a competitive foreign territory.

The urge to lie to survive and avoid conflict forced Marlon to pretend his admiration for Kurtz. This was to avoid being seen to be envious or a threat to him since he had many admirers among the ranks of in company. “I suppose it did not occur to him that Mr. Kurtz was no idol of mine” (121). It is also apparent that many of Kurtz’s admirers were not motivated by a genuine liking but rather fear of what he may turn out to be in the company. For example the chief accountant is afraid Kurtz may be headed to a senior position in the company. “He will be a somebody in the Administration before long. They, above—the Council in Europe, you know—mean him to be” (36). This demonstrates the accountant good words on Kurtz are motivated by fear that if he ascends in the administration ladder, he might hurt those who were disloyal to him. this was a case of choice of two nightmares.

The tactics of self survival and self preservation conceal the real motive behind the employees of the company. From up the ladder, to the junior employees, the motivation is greed for money. This is apparent when Marlon ask one of the junior officers what his motive was by travelling all the way to Africa. He responds, ‘To make money, of course. What do you think?’(38). Kurtz who portrayed as a excessively greedy and cruel schemer, demonstrate how greed is rampant in the company. He planned to sink Marlow’s ship so as to avoid been taken back home though he was sick. He did not want Marlow to take the ivories he had collected. Interest in his ivories was more important than his life. He did not trust the manager neither as he opted to give Marlon a packet of paper containing his documents and a photograph. As he would tell Marlon, ‘This noxious fool’ (meaning the manager) ‘is capable of prying into my boxes when I am not looking.’ (143). this shows mistrust even among the high ranks.

When Kurtz finally gives in to his fate when he sate, “I am lying here in the dark waiting for death.’ And later cried, “The horror! The horror!” as his last words, he may have recounted some of his savagery and the vanity of all he had work so hard to achieve (144-5).

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