The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, essay on the duality of human nature within the novel

Essay by Brodyman15 April 2005

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The nature of humanity has been questioned by philosophers for centuries. Among the many theories in existence the theory of Thomas Hobbes that all people are born innately evil or that of John Locke in which all people are born pure and innately warm hearted are the most cited and talked about. Linked to these ideas is the question of whether or not people are shaped and corrupted by society or if its heredity that determines a person's morals. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad brings different theories to the reader depending on how it is interpreted. Even though opinion on the novel's position may change from reader to reader it cannot be denied that the character of Kurtz brings about the focus of humanity's nature.

Towards the end of the novel there is a brief period in which Marlow speaks of Kurtz with admiration and praise. "...I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man.

He had something to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up - he had judged. 'The Horror!' He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candor, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth - the strange commingling of desire and hate...True, he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot. And perhaps this is the whole difference; perhaps...