But from time to time do ye grant me… one glimpse, grant me but one glimpse
only, of something perfect, fully realized, happy, mighty, triumphant, of
something that still gives cause for fear! A glimpse of a man that justifies the
existence of man… for the sake of which one may hold fast to the belief in
man! (Nietzsche, 18).
Nietzsche cringes before the civilization of Europe and seeks a man unencumbered by moral principles, principles that he believes form from the stifling existence of being surrounded by weaker beings. Nietzsche’s cry for a superman is realized in the quest of Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness. Marlow travels up the Congo River of Central Africa, driven by curiosity that morphs into raving monomania to find the premier Belgian ivory trader, Kurtz, a man seemingly distinguished from the hollow men of the Company, a man to make Nietzsche proud. But the average reader is not proud, as through Heart of Darkness Conrad displays for him the horror that lurks within his own soul through the flow of the story ever inward from the mouth of the Congo, to the Belgian ivory stations, to the innermost darkness, Kurtz himself.
Conrad’s narration is as smooth as a stream with a barely perceptible current bearing readers along with his story in blissful contentment, only to be jostled suddenly by waves of uncomfortable fact, then let down into lethargy and sweet beautiful language again. His words are a trap that carries readers into the perception of the most complete d...
... middle of paper ...
...rad’s Heart of Darkness leads the reader to see the horror of his own soul, as Conrad was forced to see the horror in the Congo. Marlow’s experience is based on Conrad’s work for the Belgians in 1890. He went to the Congo through lack of work only to find “that the rhetoric of progress and civilization masked a colonial regime of appalling rapacity and violence” (Jasanoff). Returning to Europe suicidal, Conrad said, “Everything here is repellent to me. Men and things, but men above all” (Jasanoff). One cannot help but wonder if Marlow’s acceptance of the company’s atrocities is Conrad’s self-abasement for his role in the atrocity. But if Conrad’s readers remember any message from Heart of Darkness let it not be that the Belgians committed evil deeds in the Congo in the past, but that man is capable of evil greater than any past regardless of place and time.
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