Shades of Evil

1200 Words5 Pages
Marlow sits in Mr. Kurtz’s fiancée’s parlor, observing the Intended as she stretches her arms across a window. The simple gesture reminds Marlow of Kurtz’s mistress in the Congo, the one “bedecked with powerless charms, stretching bare brown arms over the glitter of the infernal stream, the stream of darkness” (71). He watches the Intended as she mourns the loss of her lover and then realizes that he must lie to her to prevent shattering her heart. Throughout The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad supports William Saroyan’s quote, “Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These understand,” by illustrating the varying degree of savageness in men; he reveals the goodness in men one expects to be evil through his depiction of Africans. Conrad begins his novel by confirming the stereotypical view of Africans, but then turning the public’s perception of them upside down. As Marlow travels down to the Congo in the French steamer, he sees a band of Africans rowing a boat along the shore of Africa. The men sang, shouted, and moved with a “wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast” (11). Marlow watches these men with comfort, confirming his own beliefs and the European’s beliefs that Africans were savage and strong. Afterwards, Marlow arrives at the Congo and sees six black men trudging like starved prisoners; “they were dying slowly… nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation” (14). The chain gang also supports the preconceptions of an African. Before Marlow leaves for the Congo, he visits his aunt who praises him as a worker who will help the poor, starving savages of Africa. The image of the blacks, who were all connected together with a ch... ... middle of paper ... ...to sublimate their repression into more evil. The Intended asks Marlow to repeat Kurtz’s last words because she wants “something to live with” (71). Marlow hesitates, realizing that Mr. Kurtz’s actual last words would crush his fiancée. Then, Marlow finally understands that, while he can despise evil and ungodliness, he can also understand why men are evil and ungodly; he understands Mr. Kurtz’s intentions and chooses to respond to the Intended by lying, “The last word he pronounced was—your name” (71). Conrad reveals the goodness in men that society would not expect to be good. Even today, people are racist and prejudice, seeing evil in people that are not necessarily evil. However, it is important to see the goodness in the people that society deems evil, like the Africans in Heart of Darkness, in order to achieve a greater understanding of the world and oneself.
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