Essay about lieshod The Lies in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Essay about lieshod The Lies in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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The Lies in Heart of Darkness


A lie, as defined by Webster's dictionary is 1) a false statement deliberately presented as true; 2) to convey a false image or impression. It is generally accepted that Marlow told a lie to the Intended - the reasons for that lie are debatable. I would suggest that he told not just one lie, to the Intended, but several - that his visit itself was, in a form, a lie.


The statement easily recognized as a lie, and that falls into Webster's definition 1), is Marlow's deliberate falsification of Kurtz's last words - "The last word he pronounced was - your name" (Longman p. 2246), when we all know that Kurtz's last words were, "The horror! The horror!"(Longman p. 2240). Marlow's intentions - however noble in this one instance - are questionable, in regards to the lesser lies he tells the Intended. This lie, in Marlow's mind, was justified as a means of protecting the Intended. Marlow saw Kurtz's death as "...a moment of triumph for the wildernes, an invading and vengeful rush, it seemed to me, I would have to keep back alone for the salvation of another soul"(Longman p. 2243). Now the lie is not only justified but honorable.


Marlow's more noble self - his spiritually attuned nature - tells us early on that, "You know I hate, detest and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies - which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world - what I want to forget." (Longman p. 2210). His statement is recognition of the lies (of the world, in general and of the brick-maker, in particular) (Longman p. 2208-2210). He reviles these lies as a betrayal of what is good and...

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......"[Marlow]. To illustrate how effectively the previous lies are preparing Marlow - he didn't even choke on this one! Lie #7: "His end was in every way worthy of his life"[Marlow]. Taken at face value that may very well have been a true statement however, Marlow intended for it to carry the false impression of a noble, honorable and worthy death and life.


Marlow never elaborates on how the lie(s) made him feel. I believe Marlow's true character was honest and noble and suffered from this blow to his earlier righteous abhorrence. Possibly these lie(s) could be classified as irony (out of respect for Marlow's true character) - the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning or an incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs. Or is that the first step into the Heart of Darkness? Justifying sins based on intentions or results.

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