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Heart of Darkness: Character Anaylsis

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Joanne Montag

on 13 January 2014

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Transcript of Heart of Darkness: Character Anaylsis

Heart of Darkness: The New Historicism
Character Analysis

He acts as a guide for the reader and is able to show both extremes, Kurtz and the Company through having an open mind and viewing both sides of the situation.
His journey up the Congo becomes a rather thrilling experience that allows him to discover the “heart of darkness” found in all men; many suppress evil urges (like himself) while others succumb to them (Kurtz).
His skepticism is exposed through his encounters with debased white men and has ultimately seen enough of the world to make him question everything around him.
He lies to Kurtz’s intended to ultimately save her from a broken heart. Marlow refuses to destroy her illusions and tells her that the last word Kurtz had said was her name.
He tells the manager he is “Not so sick as you’d like to believe” showing that this statement applies to all Europeans involved in an imperialistic system.
Kurtz may seem like a morally sick man but is rather a man who has an impact on the hearts of men everywhere. Regardless, Kurtz remains a character that has a lasting affect that remains with Marlow and the reader.
As stated in the article, humanity must confront the horror Kurtz had the strength and courage to face.
Survival of the species, demands that unlike Kurtz it should not succumb to it but instead cover it up like Marlow did.
Kurtz exemplifies an assault on European values and is an embodiment of Europe. Kurtz becomes fascination to Marlow yet a threat to the Company itself.
Similar to Marlow, Kurtz wished to travel to Africa in search of adventure in hopes of completing great acts such as humanizing, improving and instructing. Instead he set himself up as a God to the natives at the Inner Station.
Kurtz is only doing what the Company is doing but what he is doing differently is not hiding his actions behind good intentions.
He returns back to Europe and his home, despite having all the evidence that proves civilization is a lie and is an institution humans have created to channel their desires for power. This theory was proven through the Company and Kurtz.
When transitioning back into European society towards the end of the book, he is almost unable to reintegrate himself back into his lifestyle having been convinced of the lies and “surface truths” that sustain it.
Initially, Marlow sets off on this journey intending to reach Africa but is instead exposed to the reality and truth of darkness in human civilization.
Marlow tells a story primarily based on events that occurred in the past exposing the truths of civilization
Marlow’s character displays qualities that can be comparable to Nick Caraway’s in the “Great Gatsby”. Both characters play a narrative role and tell the story from their point of view.
The only concern about Nick being the narrator of the story is that some many say he is an unreliable narrator in terms of his information since we only interrupt the story from his view. The same can be said about Marlow in terms of his facts and his view on the situation at hand.
They both have goals and ambitions they set out to achieve and in doing so, have certain factors that interfere with their journeys.
Kurtz on the other hand, resembles King Lear. Both characters are highly recognized and are in a much superior position than the rest. Kurtz and King Lear are both rich leaders who suffer tremendously in their tragic downfall.
Relation to Other Literature
No history can relate the past as it truly was because our histories are shaped by our present perspective. Conrad tries to explain the past through his characters to give the reader an inside look on the important issues of that time period.
He uses Kurtz, who embodies Europe’s most noble ideals, to recognize the heart of darkness. Conrad brings us face to face with the truth of civilized Europe through Kurtz.
His last words “The Horror, The Horror” show us that Kurtz realized his wrongs and went mad similar to King Lear. Both of their wrongs were literally the cause of their destruction and drove them to madness.
History to Today's Perspective
“Heart of Darkness” is a historical piece that explores issues surrounding imperialism, absurdity of evil and the darkness of civilization.
Conrad instead serves more as an historian, shedding light on previous historical events that occurred. Historical events are expressed through Marlow’s intriguing story and as well as the truth being revealed through his journey.
The article states that history no longer merely took place in time; it also took place through time, making history temporalized. Past events therefore needed to be continually interpreted from the standpoint of a new present.
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