Essay on Joseph Conrad 's Heart Of Darkness

Essay on Joseph Conrad 's Heart Of Darkness

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“The horror! The horror!” (3.12). These are the last words spoken by Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Marlow is in the room to hear these words, but they are not intended for him. Kurtz says them in an almost trance-like state like he is describing something he is watching on a screen, but what exactly is he seeing? The true meaning about Kurtz’s last words lies in Marlow’s observations of Kurtz. Kurtz is a very corrupt man with a big ego who has done many questionable things during his time in the Congo. Through Marlow’s experience we learn that Kurtz has been stealing ivory from his company, cheating on his fiancée, and has been treating the natives horribly. While on his deathbed, Kurtz seems to shed his hard exterior and, for the first time, actually seems human. Marlow even observes, “I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent” (3.12). Kurtz is a man who knows he is about to die and, in his last moments, has an epiphany. He feels intense regret about all the horrible things he’s done and, at the same time, is scared about the results of his actions for the afterlife. In the last minutes of his life, Kurtz sees the consequences of his actions and realizes that, in the end, the darkness was not the Congo, his company, or the natives—the true darkness was in his heart.
Throughout most of Heart of Darkness very little actual information is known about Kurtz, and what is provided is mostly rumors and often contradictory. An example of this is at the beginning of Marlow’s journey, Kurtz is credited as a great man destined for promotion, but as his journey gets deeper into the Congo, Kurtz is regarded as insane and a traitor. The one thing that becomes clear to Marlow is that Kurtz is a very intelligent man...


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...ust that it is at this moment he finally starts to realize just how terrible his actions truly have been. He sees the way he cheated his company because of his own greed, the wrong he did by cheating on his fiancée, and especially the horrible things he did to gain control of the natives. He realizes just how much of a horrible man he has become and is especially saddened because he recognizes the potential for good he had in him. After reliving all of these actions, it seems to be clear to him that the chances of him going to a Christian heaven are not likely, and like many people, he realizes it too late. On his deathbed he finally sees all these things and is left horrified and almost speechless. Realizing just how much of a horrible man he truly was as he nears death, all he can muster the strength to say with his final words is, “The horror! The horror!” (3.12).

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