Marlow is a young man with dreams of visiting Africa with the intention of discovering what it has to offer. He intends to go out there and explore the lands and make a name for himself. On his way, he learns about Kurtz who is said to be very famous in ivory trade. The ivory he brings in is said to be more than everyone else’s combined. He hopes to meet him and learn from him. When he gets to Africa, he learns that his main mission is to extract Kurtz who is ailing somewhere upstream. His journey is however slackened by the manager who intentionally damages the boat so as to buy enough time for the ‘climate to deal with its problems’. By saying this, they imply for Kurtz to die.
Marlow hen learns that while the Company has sent him to go and extract Kurtz and take him to Europe, the stories he has been told have been intended to impress him. Kurtz is in fact disliked by most of the Europeans. The manager dislikes him because he thinks that Kurtz is his competition. Kurtz is also very influential due to his way with words. Marlow learns that most of the people he has been hearing from are liars. They intend to send him to retract Kurtz but have no close attraction to him. This he attributes to all the people he is working with. He feels that they lack basic morals.
Marlow also feels that all the participants of imperialism have no respect for life. He gets close with the Africans and feels that ‘probably’ they are humans. He also feels that his participation in imperialism promotes their actions. First, he learns that they hold Africans as slaves. His discovery that they may be as good as other human beings makes him take their side. At one point, when they have extracted Kurtz, he notices that the pilgrims on board would have wanted to use the natives for target practice. When a hut burns down, one of the natives is accused of being the one who put in on fire and is flogged. He later disappears when he recovers.
Another perspective that may have repulsed Marlow from his fellow countrymen is the fact that his involvement in their endeavors had caused so much enmity with them. He also discovers that there is no true friendliness among them. When one of them is away, they start discussing his weaknesses hoping not to be heard. He at one point discovers overhears the manager discussing Kurtz with his uncle. He learns that the manager has no good intentions for him.
Another factor that may have caused to Marlow’s distaste for imperialism is the ideals followed by Kurtz. He goes out looking for a man who has good morals and tactical business habits. When he gets there, he finds that Kurtz has no regard for human life. He is known to have almost killed a man over a piece of ivory. When Marlow looks at Kurtz’s hut, he discovers that it is surrounded by severed human heads that face his hut.
There is also the discovery that Kurtz becomes immoral and cheats on his girlfriend. While there, he gets himself an African woman as a mistress. This depicts him as a normal human being to some extent. The expectations of Kurtz would have been to find a person who is above average in morals and standards. He could have been frustrated to find the man he found. His immorality leads makes Marlow to lie for him. When he gets to the girlfriend to give her his letters, he tells her that his last words were her name.
Marlow had discovered that the lands he had intended to discover for his country already belonged to others. His heart for colonization had died to find that those who were working as slaves worked as well as uneducated whites. He felt that the Europeans should have empowered Africans instead of making them their slaves.
Marlow also discovers that the journey to Africa transforms him so that he lets go of his morals. For one, he finds himself lying on two occasions. The fact that he takes natives as hostages also counts as a form of wickedness to him. The exposure to so much evil in one community may have been detrimental to his morals.
When he is telling his story, he notes that the company director had only conversed with him for 45 seconds before employing him and sending him to Africa. This shows that the director does not care about him but just sees him as someone who is going to die in Africa. The doctor indeed says that it is not common to see people return from Africa.
Finally, the fact that
he had not succeeded in finishing his mission may have influenced his spirit.
Returning home without Kurtz may have made him feel like a failure. He must
have felt that his visiting Africa had borne no fruits.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Charlottesville, Va: University of Virginia Library, 1996. Print.
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