Heart Of Darkness

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Kurtz originally went to the Congo with noble intentions. At first the question builds up of what type of man Kurtz may be as Marlow travels up the river to the Inner Station where he will meet him for the first time. It is learned that Kurtz "had been educated in England" (pg. 45) and "His mother was half-English, his farther was half-French." The culture and civilizations of Europe and his up bringing contributed to the making of Kurtz as painter, musician, journalist, orator, and writer, an overall "universal genius." (pg. 67) Kurtz went to work for the company in the jungle to, "turn each station into a beacon on the road towards better things, a center for trade of course, but also for humanizing." (pg, 29) and also supposedly to make money for his fiancée. "I had heard that her engagement with Kurtz had been disapproved. He wasn't rich enough or something…" (pg.70)

In Europe, before he entered the jungle, civilized "men looked up to him," (pg. 71) and he represented everything that is admired in a civilized society. Kurtz was an extremist and was admired for his ability to do many admirable things in Europe, but only a place like the jungle could test his real abilities and inner strength.

Although Kurtz was a "universal genius" and had originally planned to help the savages, and earn money for his wife, his very essence is what allowed him to be corrupt by the jungle.

"They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him-some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence…the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken to him a terrible vengeance…it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know…It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core…" (pg. 53) Kurtz was defined as a "universal genius," by those who knew him in Europe, however, as soon as the jungle began to open up new opportunities for him, he suddenly became a "hollow sham," a man without basic integrity or any sense of social responsibility. "The wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now-images of wealth and fame revolving obsequiously round his unextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression." (pg. 63) To the savages he could have been considered a genius but only after he presented himself as a god to them and maniacally made them respect him as one. He realized he was in a place where he could create his own rules and as soon as this became clear to him, the man he had once been became an insane, selfish monster. At the end of his descent into the lowest pit of degradation, Kurtz becomes a thief, murderer, cheater, and allows himself to be worshipped as a god. He keeps falling deeper and deeper into a depraved hole. Marlow does not see Kurtz, until he is so emaciated by disease. Marlow remarks that Kurtz' head is as bald as an ivory ball and that he resembles "an image of death carved out of old ivory." (pg. 57) The jungle destroys Kurtz and even when he finally gives in to leaving the jungle it is too late. Kurtz was lured into a trap that he could not escape but perhaps if he had had more restraint he could have fought his way back to sanity.

Society keeps us from acting uncivilly but Kurtz' character shows that when the laws of society are taken away and one lacks the inner strength to hold on to any restraint that he has within him, it is easy to be corrupted by outer forces and temptations. Although Kurtz is a fictional character, he undoubtedly represents many men in reality that give in to temptation of wealth and power as well as other lusts.