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 Kurtz’s fiancée appear to provide a justification for Marlow to lie, to be the catalyst that leads to Marlow’s revelation that darkness does indeed exist everywhere, and to symbolize all of civilization.
When Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, he intended the theme to be universal,
applicable to all of society, not just to uncivilized Africa. This ubiquitousness of the theme is apparent when Marlow describes London as “one of the dark places of the earth”(67). Conrad applies the idea of darkness to a supposed civilized society, demonstrating that darkness occurs everywhere throughout the world, not just in uncivilized places such as Africa. To make the theme even more omnipresent to his readers, Conrad needed to include an incident of darkness outside of Africa. Marlow’s like to Kurtz’s Intended is the example that Conrad needed to add to make the universality of his message clear: “The last words he pronounced was—your name”(164). Marlow despises lying more than any other form of darkness; “I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie”(96). By having Marlow lie to Kurtz’s Intended, Conrad incorporates universality into the theme of the book. Lying is a form of evil, a form of darkness within Marlow, and even though Marlow restrains himself and steps back from the edge of giving into his darkness in Africa, it still consumes him in London, a supposed civilized society. Marlow believes that he escapes the threat of darkness when he leaves Africa, but what he does not realize, and what the readers may not realize, either, is that the darkness is within each person. The threat of darkness does not just exist in Africa and other uncivilized places, but it comes from the heart within each individual. Conrad wants the reader to realize that there is no getting away from the darkness that dwells inside everyone; it is necessary always to practice self-restraint or the darkness will take over. The significance of the presence of the Intended is to provide Conrad a chance to have Marlow lie to make evident to the readers that darkness exists everywhere, that it is inside the heart of every person.
Conrad uses the Intended in another way to convey to the reader that darkness is every-
where. Conrad develops a very sexist attitude towards women early in the book.
It’s queer how out of touch with the truth women are. They live in a world of their own,
and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether,
and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the...