Heart of Darkness

Inherent inside every human soul is a savage evil side that remains repressed by society. Often this evil side
breaks out during times of isolation from our culture, and whenever one culture confronts another. Joseph
Conrad\'s tale, The Heart of Darkness, is a story about Man\'s journey into his self, and the discoveries to be
made there. It is also about Man confronting his fears of failure, insanity, death, and cultural contamination. The
protagonist, Marlow, is on a mission to find Kurtz, and is also trying to find himself. Malow, like Kurtz, has good
intentions upon entering the Congo. Conrad tries to show us that Marlow is what Kurtz had been, and Kurtz is
what Marlow could become. Every human has a little of Marlow and Kurtz in them. Marlow says about himself,
"I was getting savage," meaning that he was becoming more like Kurtz. Along the trip into the wilderness, they
discover their true selves through contact with savage natives. As Marlow ventures further up the Congo, he feels
like he is traveling back through time. He sees the unsettled wilderness and can feel the darkness of it\'s solitude.
Marlow comes across simpler cannibalistic cultures along the banks. The deeper into the jungle he goes, the
more regressive the inhabitants seem. Kurtz has lived in the Congo, and is separated from his own culture for
quite some time. He had once been considered an honorable man, but the jungle changes him greatly. Here,
secluded from the rest of his own society, he discovers his evil side and becomes corrupted by his power and
solitude. Marlow tells us about the ivory that Kurtz keeps as his own, and that he has no restraint, and is "a tree
swayed by the wind." Marlow mentions the human heads displayed on posts that "showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked
restraint in the gratification of his various lusts." Conrad also tells us "his nerves went wrong, and caused him to
preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rights," (pg. 83), meaning that Kurtz goes insane and
allows himself to be worshipped as a god. It appears that while Kurtz has been isolated from his culture, he has
become corrupted by this violent native culture, and allows his evil side to control him. Marlow realizes that only
very near the time of death, does a person grasp the big picture. He describes Kurtz\'s last moments "as though a
veil had been rent." Kurtz\'s last "supreme moment of complete knowledge," shows him how horrible the human
soul really can be. Marlow can only speculate as to what Kurtz sees that causes him to exclaim "The horror! The
horror," but later adds that "since I peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare." It
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." Marlow guesses that Kurtz suddenly knows everything and
discovers how horrible the duplicity of man can be. Whenever fundamentally different cultures meet, there is
often a fear of contamination and loss of self that leads us to discover more about our true selves, often causing
perceived madness by those who have yet to discover. Marlow learns through Kurtz\'s death; he learns that
inside every human is this horrible, evil side.

Word Count: 559