The Powerful Voice Of Kurtz In Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness

1023 words - 4 pages

The Powerful Voice of Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Many times, words by themselves do not convey an idea wholly or conceal it altogether. Instead, the voice carrying the words conveys the idea, lending shape and new meaning to the familiar syllables. Words resonate with prescribed meanings, whereas voice creates its own meaning and identity. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, voice comprises the primitive component of language, with words existing only as a secondary function of voice. Glimpsing a “primitive truth,” Kurtz’s voice and soul unite so that his knowledge speaks through his voice, rather than through his words. Alternately draining words of their meaning and filling them with new meaning, Kurtz’s voice contains the power to define his own words. Strip Kurtz of his common syllables, and what remains is a terse note in a margin of seventeen eloquent pages, a frightening voice shaped by unfamiliar words. Marlow first hears of Kurtz as a word repeatedly spoken by others. As Marlow navigates down the river, traveling farther from civilization, Kurtz’s voice amplifies, ultimately consuming the name and the man himself.

The voice of Kurtz is heard and realized not in the familiar words of others, but in the journey down the river into the unknown. People’s inability to pronounce Kurtz’s name suggests the authenticity of Kurtz’s own voice and the weakness of the words used to describe him. When describing Kurtz, familiar vocabulary fails altogether; Kurtz remains a word with little meaning. Marlow first hears of Kurtz from the Company’s chief accountant at Outer Station. When asked who Kurtz is, the accountant responds, “He is a very remarkable person” (37).* The accountant does not mention his name without adding the formal title, “Mister,” as if to make his name more appropriate to be spoken and to distance himself from the name. The accountant then trails off and begins to write again. Still governed by familiar language and voiceless words on paper, the accountant is unable to accurately describe Kurtz. Later, at Central Station, in the conversation between the nephew and uncle, Kurtz is again referred to, but not by name: “His name, you understand, had not been pronounced once. He was ‘that man’” (57). Although still inadequate, the phrase, “that man,” describes Kurtz much better than the accountant’s “Mister.” There is contempt and scorn that underlie these words, as if Kurtz himself has inspired them. At this point in the narrative, Marlow addresses his listeners: “He was just a word for me. I did not see the man in the name any more than you do. Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything?” (50) But Marlow appeals to the wrong sense. He should be asking, “Do you hear him?”

Kurtz’s voice finally becomes audible during the arrow attack on the boat. Among the wails and howls, Marlow realizes the authenticity and strength of Kurtz’s voice beneath the words:

I made the strange discovery that I had never...

Find Another Essay On The Powerful Voice of Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Exploring Characters and Subliminal Undertones in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

1645 words - 7 pages There are three main topics to discuss when it comes to analyzing Conrad’s Heart of Darkness - symbolic interpretations, character development and language. Heart of Darkness has an abundance of almost subliminal undertones.  This novella is written to such precision and high detail that almost every paragraph has a significant part to play in the overall plot. The author, Conrad, concentrates on creating a story to illustrate ideas and

Exposing Colonialism and Imperialism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

2099 words - 8 pages The Evil of Colonialism Exposed in Heart of Darkness     Marlow was an average European man with average European beliefs. Like most Europeans of his time, Marlow believed in colonialism; that is, until he met Kurtz. Kurtz forces Marlow to rethink his current beliefs after Marlow learns the effects of colonialism deep in the African Congo. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow learns that he has lived his entire life believing in a

Prejudice and Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

826 words - 3 pages Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness   Imagine floating up the dark waters of the Congo River in the Heart of Africa. The calmness of the water and the dense fog make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you wonder if the steamboats crew will eat you as you sleep. These things occur in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Although the book is undeniably racist, was the author, Joseph Conrad, racist? Conrad was racist because he

The Changing Personality of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

966 words - 4 pages Heart of Darkness  - The Changing  Personality of Kurtz      Kurtz's character is fully facet (in Conrad's Heart of Darkness), not because of his conventional roll of antagonist, but for his roll in a historical fiction as a character with important roll in society, influenced by those close to him. Kurtz makes some key developments in the way he interacts with others, in large part due to the words and actions of society and Kurtz's

The Duality of Ivory: An Examination of Greed in Society Through Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

1122 words - 5 pages obtain social success you needed greed, for greed equated to more money, more power, more success. Ivory laid in the very heart of this mindset. It was the symbol of abundance, used in items including pianos, pool balls, and dominos. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad uses ivory as a catalyst to showcase the dual nature of greed encouraged by society, and caution about its consuming, destructive nature, especially when unreigned by society. Kurtz, while

The Role of Kurtz’s Intended in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

1567 words - 6 pages The Role of Kurtz’s Intended in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Very often in literature minor characters appear for only a short time in the story but carry a very heavy significance in the overall meaning of the book. Kurtz’s Intended, in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, is this kind of character. The unnamed woman only appears for a brief period at the end of the novel, but Conrad includes her for three very crucial reasons. He has

Jungian Psychology and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

6220 words - 25 pages As the Heart of Darkness snakes its way into the savage shadows of the African continent, Joseph Conrad exposes a psycho-geography of the collective unconscious in the entangling metaphoric realities of the serpentine Congo. Conrad’s novella descends into the unknowable darkness at the heart of Africa, taking its narrator, Marlow, on an underworld journey of individuation, a modern odyssey toward the center of the Self and the center of the

Conrad's Obsession with Voice in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

720 words - 3 pages Conrad's Obsession with "Voice" in Heart of Darkness     For the moment that was the dominant thought. There was a sense of extreme disappointment, as though I had found out I had been striving after something altogether without a substance. I couldn't have been more disgusted if I had travelled all the way for the sole purpose of talking to Mr. Kurtz. Talking with . . . I flung one shoe overboard, and became aware that

Achebe’s Inability to Understand Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

3029 words - 12 pages Achebe’s Inability to Understand Conrad’s Heart of Darkness A fierce Achebe radically condemns Conrad as "a thoroughgoing racist" in his article, arguing that Heart of Darkness is not a piece of great literature, but "an offensive and deplorable book" (Achebe 1791). He structures his argument around a few central ideas, such as the grotesque perception of the Africans by the protagonist, the antinomy between the Thames and Congo River, the

"Exterminate all the brutes!" An Exploration of Alienation within Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

1188 words - 5 pages In the eyes of Conrad and his European readers of the time, the African Congo must have been seen as the complete opposite of European society, a part of a completely different planet altogether. Savage versus civilized, dark versus light - the duality of these two worlds run throughout Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness. In that sense, a collision between worlds acts as the catalyst for all of the "horrors" in the story. Conrad does not only

Opposing Viewpoints of Africa in Two Short Stories: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

584 words - 2 pages In every situation, varying perspectives and opinions will be present, as proven in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. These literary works reveal opposing viewpoints of Africa through the use of literary and stylistic devices. The natural, primitive society is portrayed using sensory detail, imagery, and diction, which in turn reveal the authors’ different attitudes. Through his use of arrogant diction

Similar Essays

The Failure Of Kurtz In Joseph Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness"

899 words - 4 pages In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Kurtz fails for many reasons and in many ways. Kurtz's failure is especially tragic because he once had the potential for great success. He was an eloquent, powerful, and persuasive speaker who at one point was adored by all the inhabitants of the heart of darkness, the great and mysterious jungle. Everyone from the innocent natives to the administration of his corrupt company was in awe of him. Why then

Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness Essay

1880 words - 8 pages . It seems as though he thinks the Europeans were superior to the Africans just because the language they spoke was different and unfamiliar to them (pg 78). In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, almost all of the racism is directed towards the Africans. However, there is one example in which there was racism towards another person. Marlow overhears a conversation one night and discovered that the manager thought the Russian trader, who was

Heart Of Darkness Versus Apocalypse Now: The Death Of Kurtz

857 words - 3 pages Heart of Darkness Versus Apocalypse Now: The Death of Kurtz Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness to disguise his disapproval of European imperialism in the Congo. He describes the chaos and savagery found in the Congo to convince Europeans that they should stay out of Africa. Francis Ford Coppola made Apocalypse Now to disguise his disapproval of American involvement in Vietnam. He depicts the merciless slaughter of countless Vietnamese to

Gender Role In Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness

1500 words - 6 pages Gender Role In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness For the most part people who read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad may feel that the novella is strictly a story of exploration and racial discrimination. But to Johanna Smith who wrote “’Too Beautiful Altogether’: Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of Darkness” it is much more than that. Johanna Smith along with Wallace Watson and Rita A. Bergenholtz agree that throughout Heart of