The Role of Women in Heart of Darkness
In the tale Heart of Darkness, Kurtz, a European "White Knight", sets out on a crusade to win the hearts and minds of the lesser African people. Kurtz was ignorant of the degree to which Africa is dangerous, wild, timeless, feminine, unfettered by letters, religious, and vibrant. His love turns to rape when he discovers how unfitted he is to master the magnificent vitality of a natural world. The difference between Europe and Africa is the difference between two secondary symbols: the European woman who has helped to puff up Kurtz's pride and the African woman who has helped to deflate him.
The Intended (nameless, intended for someone else, not herself) is totally protected (helpless), rhetorically programmed (words without matter), nun-like in her adoration (sexually repressed), living in black, in a place of darkness, in a pre-Eliot City of the Dead, in the wasteland of modern Europe. She, like Europe, is primarily exterior, for the simple black garment hides nothing.
The Native Woman is Africa, all interior, in spite of her lavish mode of dress. While Kurtz is male, white, bald, oral, unrestrained, the native woman is female, black, stunningly coiffured, emotive, and restrained.
When Kurtz says "The horror! The horror!" rhetoric and reality come together; Europe and Africa, the Intended and the African, collide. Kurtz realices that all he has been nurtured to believe in, to operate from, is a sham; hence, a horror. The primal nature of nature is also, to him, a horror, because he has been stripped of his own culture and stands both literally and figuratively naked before another; he has been exposed to desire but can not comprehend it through some established framework. That which we can not understand we stand over; that which we can not embrace, we reject; that which we can not love, we hate. To Kurtz, Europe and Africa have both become nightmares- "The horror! The horror!"- and it is between these nightmares that Marlow must make his choice.
Because of his total self- and sexual knowledge, Kurtz could never go back to his Intended- the agony of this realization informs his repeated "horror". Such as he had...