Bring out the full significance of the last words of
Kurtz : ‘The horror! The horror! in Heart of Darkness.
Comment on Conrad’s treatment of evil in Heart of
Ans. Mr. Kurtz is one of the two dominating figures in the novel,
Heart of Darkness the other being Marlow, the chief narrator. He is
an agent of the Belgian Trading Company in the Congo. He remains
an enigma or a mysterious character to the readers from the beginning to
the end of the novel. The Chief Accountant describes him as a
“remarkable man”, very useful to the company for collecting ivory.
The Manager Of the Central Station and the Brickmaker also praise
Kurtz for his efficiency but Marlow estimates him to be an
embodiment of evil.
In his early life, Kurtz was a man of sound sense and noble ideas
and for this, he was admired throughout the whole of Europe.
But Mr. Kurtz’s prolonged stay among the brutes had transformed
him into a savage. Instead of civilizing the savages, he fell easy
prey to the influence of those men and began to share their way of life
and customs. While staying at the Inner Station, Kurtz was seized
with a kind of wilderness. Ivory which he was to collect for his
company became his passion. The word “ivory” was always on his
lips. Next to ivory, his greatest concern was his love for the girl he
proposed to marry. Even greater than his love for his fiancée, and
greater than his passion for ivory was the fascination which the
wilderness soon began to exercise upon him. The wilderness seemed
to have consumed his flesh and spirit and transformed his whole
Ultimately Mr. Kurtz became extremely greedy. A time came
when Mr. Kurtz wanted to keep all the ivory for himself instead of
allowing the company to take it away from him. But greed is only a
small example of evil in this man. In certain other respects, he
became the very embodiment of evil. He began to identify himself
with the native savages and in fact, became one of them.
Marlow tells us that Mr. Kurtz began to gratify all his various
lusts and monstrous passions, and occupy a high place among the
devils of the land. In other words, Mr. Kurtz became evil incarnate.
Thus we see that all the primitive instincts which lie dormant ina
human being, had in the case of Mr. Kurtz, risen to the surface,
because of his continuous contact with the savages. Consequently, in
his death-bed, he was found in a terrible situation. He uttered the
words “The horror! The horror!” These words signify the evil in Mr.
Kurtz, and show his horror at what might happen to him after death
when he goes to hell.
To sum up, Mr. Kurtz represents the imperial exploitation of the
backward people by the white invaders. The transformation of Mr.,
Kurtz, a civilized man into a devil conveys to us Conrad’s ideas about
evil and sinfulness.
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