Heart of Darkness
The nightmare of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is found in its stark portrayal of madness under the influence of an environment filled with desolation. Its protagonist, Mr. Kurtz, was raised amongst civilized people, adapted virtues that were regarded proper in society during the Victorian era, yet when he travels into the Congo, where these qualities are of no consequence, he abandons them to become wild. To understand how Kurtz fell to this emotional corruptness, a reader must be aware of three main elements that caused his disillusionment: power, greed, and isolation.
When Kurtz was living in England, he was a follower of the island’s ruling party and conducted tasks amongst the supervision of its magistrates. Under these conditions, most of his actions were in abidance to the law, and if he were found conducting himself improperly in society, a harsh punishment could result in the form of fines or imprisonment for activities against the state. With his voyage into the Congo in search of finding a fortune through ivory trade, the lack of ruling parties in these far-flung outposts has an immediate effect on his persona. He discovers as he travels further into the interior of Africa that lawlessness grows as the watchful eyes of government factions fade away into the nothingness of primeval jungles. Many individuals thrown into an environment where they find unbridled freedom will seek means of overpowering others, and as Mr. Kurtz finds himself the sole member of intelligence amongst a province populated by heathens, he seeks ways to gain rule. When Marlow arrives to bring Kurtz back to civilization, the ivory trader has become supreme ruler over most of the lands inhabitants and has brainwashed the people into following his whims. As Kurtz’s maniacal boat mate states, “they adored him”(277). How he gained power over the natives is expressed through his ruthless treatment of traitors by putting their heads on stakes and his disregard of implementing English customs and well-bred indoctrination into the mindset of his people. Instead, he encourages savagery for he understands people bred from the wild will only follow those who enforce nature’s unwritten code. He grows so favorable towards his position as ruler over the jungle that when he discovers Marlow is coming to take him back to civilization, a place where he has no control, he tries to stop him, and dispatches natives to massacre all the passengers on the steamer. Marlow survives the onslaught and takes Kurtz away from a place he believes has deranged the man’s mind, but has actually offered him a gift so many people seek in life: control over the masses.
Ivory in an insurmountable supply creates greediness in Kurtz. He is renown amongst the Congo for his expertise in the ivory trade and no one can match his production.
Boatloads of the valuable...