The main character in Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, isKurtz. Kurtz no longer obeys the authority of his superiors who believe that he has become too extreme and has come to employ "unsound methods" (Coppola, 1979; Longman, 2000). Marlow is sent to retrieve Kurtz from the evil influences in the Congo, and a wild journey on a tainted river ensues. Along the way, Marlow learns about the real Kurtz and finds himself identifying with and becoming dangerously fond of the man.
By the time Marlow and Kurtz meet, Marlow is already well aware of the similarities they share. Both are imperialists, and while Marlow detests the treatment of the natives by his employers (Belgian colonists), he also makes apparent his abhorrence toward the Africans. On the other hand, Kurtz abandons the pretense of helping the natives achieve civilization, as displayed by the Europeans. Instead, he adopts their customs and becomes their leader in the never-ending quest for ivory. "He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of the supernatural beings- we approach them with the might as of a deity' (Longman, 2000, p. 2226). Marlow also admired Kurtz' resourcefulness and survival skills, especially his perseverence through jungle fever. "The wilderness had patted him on the head....it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pampered favorite." (Longman, 2000, p. 2225).
Before the boat can reach Kurtz's outpost, it is "attacked" by the local natives. M...
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...il of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision,-he cried out twice, a cry that was no more that a breath- 'The horror! The horror!' "(Longman, 2000, p. 2240). This is what distinguishes the two men; Kurtz abandoned himself and went over the edge, but Marlow is aware of just how close he was to becoming what Kurtz was.
Works Cited and Consulted
Coppola, Frances Ford. Apocalypse Now. Metro Goldwyn Mayer/ United Artists. Video: Prarmount Home Video. 1979.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical, 1988.
Longman. The Longman Anthology of British Literature, vol. B. Damrosch, D. (ed.). NY, LA: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 2000.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Joseph Conrad. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991.
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