A Minor Charater in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

A Minor Charater in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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A Minor Charater in Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness is a novel in which many relatively minor characters serve major functions in the overall meaning of the work. One such character is Kurtz's Intended who starkly contrasts against Kurtz's evil to better show the evil and primal side of man.



The Intended is the embodiment of man's denial of the truth of inner evil. In the painting of the Intended, her blindfold shows her blindness to the truth, symbolized by the torch she holds. The truth of man's evil is within her grasp, but yet she allows herself to be blinded so she cannot accept this to be true. She is in denial -- as far as she knows, if she can't see the evil or that it holds a penetrating presence, it does not exist to her.



Ironically, however, Conrad describes the Intended as having "a shade of truthfulness upon [her] features." She is an innocent -- the word "halo" compounds that notion; however this too is ironic. She is only a person, just as capable of malevolence as anyone else, which is symbolized by the black she wears. Marlow only lies about Kurtz's life and death to spare the Intended the knowledge of what Kurtz had become -- a manifestation of raw human evil. Marlow is the blindfold that shields her from the truth that Kurtz fell to a natural inner compulsion towards iniquity, and that this inner evil exists everywhere.



Because she denies the existence of an inner evil, the Intended is only as innocent as a human being can be. This innocence contrasts severely with Kurtz's own evil. This innocent girl was the fiancee of a murderer "demi-god" who decapitated people. She is the innocent side of the relationship, or the yang. She is pure, but with a spot of darkness being the potential for evil only because she is human. Kurtz is the dark side of the relationship, the yin. He is an "animated figure of death" who once was noble and innocent, like the fiancee. He went to Africa with good intentions, but was corrupted by unadulterated freedom. With no society to tell him how to act, he fell prey to his inner darkness.

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The Intended is confined by society -- another reason why she cannot possibly comprehend or even want to know about the inner evil of man.



When Kurtz's health rapidly starts to deteriorate, he speaks out in delerium about this choking evil and how he feels innocents should be protected from the knowledge of it. He says "we must help [the women] stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse." He feels that the preservation of ignorance is better than the knowledge of this despotic truth. Once the presence of this natural evil is discovered, a person is nearly always committed to its path. Kurtz's feelings for his intended make him realize that not all truths should be known.



The Intended symbolizes man's denial and unwillingness to learn truths too awful to know. A person should be aware of his own natural malevolence, yet not become evil, finding a balance in between. Conrad shows through the Intended that some truths should never be known.

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