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Running into Darkness in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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Heart Of Darkness: Running from the Truth


In the novel Heart Of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, the main

character makes a decision to go against his convictions by telling a

lie about Kurtz¹s death to the intended. After careful analysis of the

situation, one can see that Marlow is justified in lying to the

intended because the lie enables Marlow live the rest of his life

without having to bear the weight of truth on his shoulders.


               There was great meaning in the actual final words uttered by Kurtz.

Kurtz had seen the true heart of man, and he knew of the evil. In his

final words ³the horror, the horror²(68), Marlow comes to understand

and to accept Kurtz¹s view of life. The things that Kurtz had both

done and seen in his life were in fact horrible, but was something

that Marlow was able to look past. This is later clear by what is in

his thoughts as he talks to the woman. He condemning mankind as a

whole with this statement. . This is why Marlow keeps the words to

himself. It allows him to preserve hope both in the intended, and more

importantly in himself.


               Early in the story Marlow makes it clear that he detests lies. He

says ³There is a taint of death, a flavor of mortality in lies-which

is exactly what I hate and detest in the world(29).² This quote comes

to mind at the end of the book when Marlow blatantly lies to the

intended, but there is plenty evidence that Marlow¹s has not changed,

only his method of avoiding what he hates. He says that he hates the

morality, and the taint of death associated with lies, but in this

case these things are associated with the truth. Marlow tells of a

vision that he has on his way into see the intended. He says that he

saw Kurtz ³on the stretcher opening his mouth voraciously as if to

devour all of the earth with all its mankind² and that he had seen

Kurtz as ³a shadow insatiable of splendid appearances, of frightful

realities, a shadow darker than the shadow of night,(72). This is a

real and vivid description of his feelings for Kurtz. To Marlow, Kurtz

was an evil force that represented horror of what people could easily

become under the right circumstances. Marlow lied to the woman in an

attempt to block this bitter truth from his mind.


               In this story, the main character is faced with with a decision. He

had the option to either tell the woman the actual final words of her

loved one, or to make up new ones which she would find soothing.

Marlow choose the the latter of the two, but it was almost as though

he was unable to tell her the truth. He claimed that the truth was

much too dark, but that explanation could mean anything. The reason he

did not tell her was because he was afraid of the truth, and was

totally unable to deal with it, except in his subconscious mind. It is

clear that he was justified in his actions, because he had only one

real choice, and that was to lie.

 

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