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Tara Van

on 22 January 2014

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Half Insane - Half Sane
Visual Representation
Kurtz’s sanity, or insanity, stems from his time spent with the natives. Conrad describes him falling into savagery, however this depends on how you view the events of the text as a whole. Kurtz, while being a flawed character, could be embodying the will of the human spirit to grasp on to sanity. He begins his journey to the Congo like any other, however once he begins working in this environment his attitude shifts away from that of the European Colonizers as their evils are brought to light. And he is the only one to distance himself from their evils until Marlow enters the Congo.
Kurtz, “away from society he is liberated to do anything, either good or evil. He shakes himself free from restraints, and becomes his own diabolical God: ‘He had kicked himself loose of the earth . . . he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air.’ The wilderness has found him out, has whispered things to him about himself, has patted him on the head, turned him bald, ‘and, behold, it was like a ball—an ivory ball.’ With a perverse sense of humor, the darkness has metamorphosed Kurtz into the object for which he craves, the ivory, and has infiltrated itself into his blood and bones. What, then, is the value of his freedom? It is on this issue that all the critics disagree.”
Information from the Criticism
Kurtz was one of the characters who strongly represented the theme of madness. He was sane until he saw the moral flaws of civilization, and he chose his own path. He was driven mad by his own freedom.
Sanity -
the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health

Insanity -
the state of being seriously mentally ill; madness.
The “Heart of Darkness” is essentially about how modern and socially developed men react to being taken away from their society, with all its structures and put in a position of dominance and power. Kurtz is a man who abuses this power, distorting his own mortality and descending into violent madness.
How does this relate?
Textual Support
Visual Quotes
"But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had – for my sins, I suppose – to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it – I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself."
But the fact remains that they still agree that Kurtz’s greed for Ivory has infiltrated his very being, like many of the other Europeans present. However the difference between them and Kurtz is simply that he embraces the darkness. “The wilderness whispers to Kurtz with an irresistible fascination because he is ‘hollow at the core.’ Does this mean that he is another hollow man, like the brick maker and the manager? Clearly not, for these characters have not the courage to respond to the darkness.”
This closeness with darkness is what makes us think that Kurtz actually gained sanity by embracing the magnetic pull of the natives. Marlow, once he encounters Kurtz, realizes difference between what each group defines as sanity and choses to side with Kurtz to the very end.
Sanity vs. Insanity
The Europeans might not seem insane to us, because it’s just a part of history, but their crimes are so heinous that if we really pick out the details nobody sane will agree with their methods. Greed is obviously the force that drives them into the Congo in the first place, but it plays a greater role in their evils than we see at first glance. The enticement of Ivory sparks their desire to conquer Africa, but that isn’t a good enough reason to present the citizens in Europe, so instead they label their expedition as a means to “Civilize” the native savages. Of course everyone hops on board because they are being fed LIES. Marlow, who is disgusted by lies, goes along with this conquest until he learns the awful secrets that are being hid from the mainland, upon which point he sides with Kurtz (but that doesn’t explain fully why the Colonizers are so insane). After lying to their own country’s citizens, the Colonizers proceed to enter the African Continent and enslave, rape, kill, and otherwise just mistreat the natives that live here under the pretense that they are “Savage” and that they need to be civilized. Now ask yourself what perfectly sane person would go to such lengths as this, let alone an entire country of people.
The correct answer is no sane person would ever do this, however the natives do prove to be more civilized than one would know at first glance. The natives resist their cannibalistic urges in front of the Europeans, as well as doing everything the Europeans demand of them for the safety of their tribes and family.
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