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The Horror And Darkness In The Heart Of Humanity

1277 words - 5 pages

The Horror and Darkness in the Heart of Humanity "The horror! The horror!"(Conrad 137) These were the last words spoken by Mr. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. These words are significant because they can be interpreted as a reference to one of this novel's major themes - an easily corrupted human nature that all human beings possess. Even Kurtz, the "universal genius"(140) who had gone into the Congo with high ideals and who was called "...an emissary of pity, and science, and progress..."(76), was susceptible to the corruption. Kurtz's final words show the realization that he has come to about the horrors that can exist in human nature, namely in himself and perhaps even in the many European imperialists that occupied Africa under the guise of bringing progress. These were very powerful words and full of meaning. In fact, Marlow, the primary character in this novel says, "No eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as [Kurtz's] final burst of sincerity"(133). Kurtz's words are also the reflection of the same conclusion that Charlie Marlow has come to about the negative side in the imperialist attitude that the white men have towards the natives of the Congo. During the course of the novel, Marlow learns a great deal about compassion and comes to see the "civilizing" of the black "savages" as a horror. In fact he says, "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much"(52). Marlow sees Kurtz's last words as a judgment that has been passed on "...all the hearts that beat in the darkness"(138). He says of Kurtz, "He had summed up - he had judged"(138). He had judged the darkness inside human nature to be "the horror". Heart of Darkness allows the reader to judge also. The novel presents one example of how imperialist thought was very ethnocentric and egotistical. Although these imperialist countries were often sincere about helping to better others lives, money-making motives often intertwined with opportunities for greater power and overtook their attempts at good deeds. Heart of Darkness is the story about one man's journey through the African Congo and the insight and knowledge into human nature that he develops as a result of this journey. Marlow is the man who is on this particular journey. At the start of this book, he is part of the eurocentric imperialist community who has taken over much of Africa under the guise of bringing progress. He works on a Belgian ship that is traveling up the Congo to the aid of a fellow employee named Kurtz. Along the way, Marlow learns compassion and he also recognizes how easily human nature can be corrupted. He learns that the European imperialist attitude is the result of a very naive and egotistical mentality. One of the most significant factors in Marlow's evolving...

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