God Complex: The Effect of Removal from Society In Heart of Darkness

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Kurtz’s last words are as ambiguous as they are terrifying. “The horror! The horror!” They may reveal a vision or just some madness induced outcry. Nevertheless, it is apparent that Kurtz has gone insane. Oxford dictionaries define insane as “in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction.” His deteriorating physical appearance emits sickness as well as madness. Also, due to the lack of restraint, Kurtz assumes a god-like position as he takes control of various African villages that worship him. Paradoxically, the stated mission of the Company to civilize the natives turns into the literal and figurative degeneration of Kurtz. However, it’s certainly not as simple as “Kurtz goes into the jungle. Heads on sticks result.” Conrad uses him as an extreme example of what happens to people when they are taken away from their structured environment. Kurtz is an embodiment of madness that represents the effects of removal from society. One of the effects of living in the wilderness is physical alteration. Kurtz is deathly ill by the time that Marlow’s steamboat can “rescue” him. Kurtz transforms into the very object he craves—ivory, with his bald, white head (Cox, 1974). He is sharply visualized to show his sickness: an “animated image of death” more than anything (Guerard, 1986). His ribs and bones stick out of his decrepit body to emphasize his illness. The physical changes reflect the spiritual and psychological battle that Kurtz struggles with. Marlow’s journey in Africa has also left him knocking on death’s door. Though the physical illness eventually leaves Marlow, his soul is haunted from the horrific incidents he encounters. Without the restraints of society, temptation exists to give into pri... ... middle of paper ... ...m. (pp.239-242). New York, NY: Norton & Company. Henrickson, Bruce. (1978). Heart of Darkness and the Gnostic Myth. In Harold Bloom (Ed.) Modern Critical Interpretations. (pp. 45-55). New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers. Insane [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/insane?q=insane. Singh, Frances B. (1988). The Colonialistic Bias of Heart of Darkness. In Robert Kimbrough (Ed.) Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text Backgrounds and Sources Criticism. (pp.268-280). New York, NY: Norton & Company. Tessitore, John. (1980). Freud, Conrad, and Heart of Darkness. In Harold Bloom (Ed.) Modern Critical Interpretations. (pp. 91-103). New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers. Watt, Ian. (1979). Conrad in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

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