Kurtz Is Marlow 's Princess Essay

Kurtz Is Marlow 's Princess Essay

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Kurtz is Marlow’s princess: his damsel in distress. A statement as such may seem out of place for a novella about a man sharing his experience about a trip he took up the Congo River. However, in Thomas Foster’s How To Read Literature Like A Professor, the concept of Heart of Darkness serving a quest story is likely. It applies to Fosters checklist of having: “(a) a quester, (b) a place to go, (c) a stated reason to go there, (d) challenges and trials en route, and (e) the real reason to go there”. Aside from gender role confusion, Kurtz can serve as Marlow’s seeked upon princess present in a standard quest story.
The more simple comparison is that between Marlow and a quester. Marlow’s apparent ‘quest’ stems from his childhood interest in maps and exploring the unknown. Though the “...blank spaces on the earth” were later explored, he still took curiosity to the Congo River. He decided he wanted to take a steamboat for trade on it, almost impulsively as he described, “[t]he snake had charmed me”. Being younger and with lack of self-knowledge, such as Marlow was, is also an aspect of a quest as described by Foster. Although this seems to have established Marlow as the “quester” and he had “a place to go”, it is not until he actually wound up in Africa that he discovered a new place and thus “reason to go”.
After gaining control of a steamship in Africa, Marlow ended up on dry land and noticed the lack of work being done by the Company as machinery was rusting everywhere he looked and as slaves were forced to blast away cliffs without purpose. More shocking images come upon Marlow as he sees the “grove of death” in which the slave workers are dying slow, painful deaths. Though disturbed, he moves on to the first station. There...


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...mirror those that Foster describes are part of a quest story, Conrad had intentions of his character gaining some sense of knowledge that he never had before. What cannot be ignored about the ending of his story, however, is what Marlow ended up doing. When it came down to Marlow telling Kurtz’s Intended about her deceased husband, he continued on to let her believe he lived and died a moral, good-natured man. What strikes deepest is when she asked for his last words, Marlow lied completely and said, “The last word he pronounced was- your name”. He went on to justify himself because it would have been “... too dark altogether” to tell her the truth. Not only did Conrad intend Marlow’s quest for his own self-knowledge, but for that of the reader as well, leaving them to see how in order to keep society functioning, it will never be aware of its true darkness at heart.

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