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The Elusive Kurtz: A Psychological Character Study Of Joseph Conrad's Antagonist Kurtz, As Well As An Analysis Of Imperialism And Good Vs. Evil.

1236 words - 5 pages

Dennis 1Robyn Dennis02/5/03Mr. JonesPeriod 1The Elusive KurtzThroughout the greater part of Joseph Conrad's novelette, Heart of Darkness, the protagonist and narrator, Marlow, is unwittingly and markedly affected by an elusive and highly venerated character known only as Kurtz. His journey via steamship into the heart of the African Congo creates within him an entirely altered view of the twisted and despairing colonization and modernization sweeping through villages and decimating the native people. Yet, nothing was more surprising or foreign to Marlow than the impalpable existence of one man..."a very remarkable person"(29), who so influenced the entire scope of foreign pilgrims and settlers that the mere mention of his name elicited feelings of respect and approbation. Thus, though Kurtz is only tangibly present for a small section of the book, his influence affects each essential character and ultimately functions as the incarnate heart of darkness to each, though only few acknowledge this truth.The allure of Kurtz is evident from the beginning of Marlow's story. Managers and agents within The Company speak openly of him as "...the best agent [and]...an exceptional man"(36), " a prodigy, an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else"(41). Kurtz's prowess as an agent and collector of ivory as well as his seeming mastery of the native peoples produces among the Europeans a sordid longing to achieve his stature and to morally justify their presence on the Dark Continent, even though he was entirely capable of filling "the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings"(85) . Delusional Europeans clung to the hope that Kurtz's initial ideals- that "(e)ach station should be like a beacon on the road toDennis 2better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing"(54), coupled with his success in acquiring ivory would validate their cause. When they discover however, that his actions are contradictory to his principles, and more importantly that he has succumbed to hoarding his and their most precious commodity, they opt to put him out quietly. Nevertheless, Kurtz continually lingers in the backs of confused minds which are left to wonder how a man so great, a poet, musician, politician, painter, writer "a universal genius"(45) could expire without conquering the world. The notion that a person could expound such great and philanthropic ideals but ultimately surrender to the dark side of his/her heart was not admitted to by the pilgrims and agents of The Company. Instead, because of the similarity between Kurtz's motivation and ideals and their own, they did not want to accept the frightening reality that darkness ultimately consumes the soul when one ignores the truth in one's heart. As such, they willfully continued in their erroneous adulations, their "cause intrusted to [them] by Europe, so to speak, higher intelligence, wide sympathies, a singleness of purpose"(41), ignoring...

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