Theme Of Selfishness In Heart Of Darkness

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The novella, Heart of Darkness (1899), written by Joseph Conrad, is one big metaphor for the insatiable desire for land and commodity of Imperialist Europe. The protagonist is Charlie Marlow, a steamer captain during the Scramble to Africa, tells his crew of his travels into the heart of Africa, up the Congo River to an ivory trading station, deep within the impenetrable forest of Congo. He is trying to get to Mr. Kurtz- a lead ivory exporter of the area. Praising this mysterious authoritarian figure, Marlow is transformed by what he witnesses. The covetous, primal nature of selfishness is within all, and is conveyed in Heart of Darkness by the greed of ivory, commodity and power. In Heart of Darkness, all characters have an intense need to…show more content…
“The glamour of youth enveloped [the Harlequin’s] parti-coloured rags, his destitution, his loneliness… (101-102), meaning he’s never been a rich man, therefore he’s likely uneducated and more likely to be an even greater disciple of Kurtz by not seeing the man’s true selfishness. The Harlequin worships Kurtz. He finds a way to justify and praise everything Kurtz has done to him or anyone else, because he has such a passion for him. “He wanted to shoot me too one day,” the Harlequin tells Marlow, “but I don’t judge” (104). For the Harlequin, this is a fair gesture in his head, for after all, the Harlequin tells Marlow that Kurtz has "enlarged my mind” (100). The Harlequin views Kurtz so highly that he finds a way to justify his erratic…show more content…
Just as greed and savagery killed Mr. Kurtz, something dies in Marlow as well as he finishes telling his story to his crew. Marlow lies to Kurtz’s Intended by saying Kurtz said her name as his last words. “It would have been too dark-to dark altogether…” (146), he declares, as Marlow pauses his story and looks out over the Thames river, which “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” (146). This refers to the Kongo River, but also a metaphor for the ‘immense,’ covetous greed that inhabits human nature. If Marlow’s journey taught him one thing, it’s that human nature is evil. Part of himself dies here at the end as he sits “apart, indistinct and silent” (146), as he realizes of all of the intense greed, want, and rapacity towards commodity that his intruded him. He is left with a piece of Kurtz forever lodged inside him. “I seemed to see his collected languid manner, when he said one day, ‘This lot of ivory now is really mine. The Company did not pay for it. I collected it myself at a very great personal risk’” (138). Marlow voluntarily takes the lot of ivory after Kurtz dies, to prove that some of Kurtz’s covetous towards ivory lives inside of Marlow. The idea of rapacity for material frames the novella and is a metaphor for how even the things you crave most can kill

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