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Moral Bankruptcy Essay

2409 words - 10 pages

Reputation plays a blinding role in separating evil from good. Based on society’s depiction of ideals, the nature of man is looked past, constituting morality through the lens of societal construct. While civilization opposes savagery, each individual houses the duality of good and evil – evil being the domineering force. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, evil men masquerade behind their reputation in society, while self-perception allows ego to override moral bounds. Without societal input in configuring our moral compass, we lose the ability to navigate our two sides, turning to a primitive state; an innate evil.
In the heart of those we venerate, there is a place for evil. Pumped into it are the forces of evil that we do not see physically, as one’s reputation masks the malicious mind. Heart of Darkness presents Kurtz’s reputation and the way the characters within the novella see him. He is placed above many in the social hierarchy, and receives an almost Godly admiration from others, “‘Ah, so they talk of him down there,’ he murmured to himself. Then he began again assuring me that Mr. Kurtz was the best agent he had, an exceptional man of the greatest importance of the company.” (Conrad 32). Throughout the novella, Marlow is told of Kurtz’s reputation, though he has yet to meet him. The speaker in this text reinforces Kurtz’s reputation that has already been built up prior to Marlow’s arrival in the Congo. In the Congo, however, Kurtz’s race already puts forth a social dominance over the Natives. White people are seen as superior, which is cultural perception, nonetheless. Thus, Kurtz being white automatically gives him a reputation of righteousness, especially since his name holds the prefix “Doctor”, stating his intelligence and credibility. He is a crucial part of “the Company”, and must have credentials that justify his actions in the story, though they are evil. Kurtz’s respective status is shared both by his European peers and the Natives of the Congo. Although he takes advantage of the power he has, and steals ivory from the Company to claim as his own, his evil nature is hidden beneath the mask his reputation has created for him. The respect that others have of him is reflective of how society depicts good and evil, and how “good” is often correlated with the ladder up the social hierarchy, “‘He is a prodigy,’ he said at last. ‘He is an emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else…’”(Conrad 16) . The speaker goes on about Kurtz’s characteristics, and what is said about him mirrors the opinion of other white Europeans, and their perception of him. They describe him as being a prodigy, stating that Kurtz is endowed with exceptional attributes. He is sent on a mission, representing the objective of the Europeans, coming to the Congo because they pity the Natives, and because Europe believes they can offer a better lifestyle...

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