The Failure of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

Essay by phishstyxzCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2003

download word file, 4 pages 2.3

In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Kurtz fails for many reasons and in many ways. Kurtz's failure is especially tragic because he once had the potential for great success. He was an eloquent, powerful, and persuasive speaker who at one point was adored by all the inhabitants of the heart of darkness, the great and mysterious jungle. Everyone from the innocent natives to the administration of his corrupt company was in awe of him. Why then, did someone with such amazing promise fail?

From the beginning, Kurtz was made out to be an icon, an idol, and a deity. To Marlow, he was the only thing that made sense in the company, on a journey, in a wilderness wrought with confusion. The company hailed him as their biggest asset and success. He delivered massive amounts of ivory to them and they liked that very much. Kurtz represented many things to many people.

He was a representation of the wilderness, the voice, a superior God-like being, an imperialist who was a symbol of colonization, and a symbol of the jungle. I considered him a symbol of power, vain, dehumanized, inhumane, a rule-breaker who had to face his consequences, and a once-great man who was trapped somewhere in the layers of the Heart of Darkness. Late in the book, several characters mention all the things that Kurtz could have been, his great potential. Kurtz's cousin came to Marlow wishing to know about Kurtz's last moments. He told Marlow that Kurtz had once been a great musician. Later, a journalist told him that Kurtz had the potential to be an excellent politician. It was also said that he would have been a splendid lawyer. No one could deny that whatever he was, and whatever he did, as his cousin...