“You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory. ‘ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my – ‘ everything belonged to him… – but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible it was not good for one either – trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land – I mean literally. ” (60)
From Marlow, comes this glimpse of Kurtz, a glimpse of his negativity, his immoral side rather than the glorification we are used to seeing attributed to him by the other characters in the novella. Kurtz emulates the villain archetype to a tee; he begins to take a megalomaniacal path, in which he becomes so power-hungry in nature, that Marlow describes him as the quintessence of evil within the novella. While Kurtz is not the only evil image, or character within the novel that represents malevolence, he is reflected as the primary by Marlow.
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Marlow personifies Kurtz as one who is only interested in the tangible- something that he can keep and see, and have for himself. Whatever morals Kurtz had upon arriving to the Congo-if any at all, are destroyed by the taste of power, and that power being specifically imperialism- the idea that one is never satisfied with what they already have and . Kurtz’s ideas are Machiavellian in nature, seeing as he desires to control and exert brute force, implying fear in order to maintain obedience, and in Conrad’s eyes, this is the biggest sin.
Kurtz has the ability to control and possess whatever he so desires because of his ability to charm, however he uses his power for evil rather than good, and this is what Marlow frowns upon. Since Kurtz is such a modal being, as attributed by others in a different light every time, as Nazanin mentioned, sometimes as an artist, other as an orator, he has the congeniality required to successfully become shrouded in order to carry out his will. He charms the natives into thinking that he is a venerable figure, almost god-like.
They begin to worship him as a deity, becoming subordinate to him and Kurtz rapaciously accepts this role, seeing personal profit as an outcome of it. Marlow, already having disdainful outlook on the natives of Africa, referring to them as “devils of the land”, observes that Kurtz has taken “a high seat” among these Devils, attributing this satanic characteristic to Kurtz tenfold, offering that if the natives are a symbol of repulsion, then Kurtz is even more so.
These notions of hatred towards Kurtz lets the reader reflect upon the idea of expansion, and in an abstract sense- mercantilism- to see that Kurtz’s selfishness takes him to the pinnacle of evil and greed through his exertion of power upon the destitute. Kurtz is merely exploiting African for the benefit of the European man, and as a result accepted a seat in hell and exemplifies that darkness of mankind. In this photo, a man is seen devouring large sums of money while the much smaller man is eating only a penny. The man on the left represents Kurtz, who is possessive and greedy over everything.
The ivory, the station, it’s as if his work has altered his ego to give him a superiority complex. He believes that he is almighty and it is then his rightful place to be “king of he devils” “It was as unreal as everything else – as the philanthropic pretence of the whole concern, as their talk, as their government, as their show of work. The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading-post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages. They intrigued and slandered and hated each other only on that account – but as to effectually lifting a little finger – oh, no. (28) Conrad addresses many concerns relating imperialism and its inherent evils when his character Marlow observes the human condition of the Outer Station; first of all, that the men coming from Europe are only concerned with themselves. They shroud their intentions with claims of philanthropy and civilizing the savages- that their work in done in pure goodness, but what their main concerns are in actuality are profit, and using any means or attain that. In the process of bestiality towards the natives, they in fact, reverse mentalities and become more like the savages they try to enlighten.
Practically every man from Europe is personified as a villain archetype; no matter how noble their cause is, they all stray the path of enlightenment and instead turn to greed and immorality. The European men, as Marlow sees it, although he is one himself, are hypocritical in their word, lying in order to earn, and therefore exemplify Marlow’s hatred of violence, greed and desire, but they also exemplify the imperialism that Marlow seems to be appalled by most. Imperialism, the extending of rule over foreign countries s depicted satirically by Marlow as if to mock its very fundamentals. Inefficiency is also highlighted by Marlow. The men wish to earn, by means of cruelty because they detest the idea of pure, honest work, and do not even wish to, as Marlow says “lift a finger” to do so. The result is haphazard, where men not only laze on the backs of natives in order to fulfil their work, but also slander each other. Each man, because of competition despises one another and talk fowl behind the other’s back-namely Kurtz, who is the manager’s object of abhorrence.
With no one actually willing to work, and with the abundance of Africans, it only makes sense that the white men “train” the savages to work for them, and by abusing their power the reader interprets their nature as villainous imperialism. The theory of Marxism sees society divided in 3 classes; the rich capitalist class, bourgeoisie class, and the poor exploited class. Marx deemed that society is corrupted. The society in Heart of Darkness is essentially a replication of the society that Marx condemned. The rich, never lifting a finger themselves, overworked and exploited the poor instead.