Chaos Theory Portrayal in Heart of Darkness

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In Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, the strongest conflict is an internal conflict that is most prominently shown in Marlow and Kurtz. This conflict is the struggle between their image of themselves as civilized human beings and the ease of abandoning their morality once they leave society. This inability has a close resemblance to the chaos theory. This is shown through the contrast of Kurtz as told by others and the actuality of him and through the progression of Marlow's character throughout Heart of Darkness.

Dictionary.com defines chaos theory as the phenomenon of unpredictable and complex dynamic systems that are highly sensitive to small changes in external conditions. In Heart of Darkness, the difference in input is Africa and the absolute power found there. "Absolute power corrupts", not so much from the power, but from becoming the only judge of your actions. Without an external controlling source, a human is likely to run to a more primitive source of control--human instinct.

Kurtz was first introduced to us as "a first-class agent" (Heart of Darkness, 29) and "a very remarkable person"(29) by the chief accountant. He was shown to be a painter and a poet with "moral ideals" (51) that ruled his life. Everyone who really knew him revered his opinions and words. "You don't talk with that man-- you listen to him." (90) All this points to a very moral and upstanding gentleman who follows the edicts of society to the bitter end.

The man we meet deep in the Congo isn't the same man. He isn't civilized or truly respectable anymore. At this point, he had gone mad. He had the heads of "rebels" (97) on posts around his house, staring at his home. "He [Kurtz] hated all this, and somehow he couldn't get away." (95) Kurtz had two opposing sensibilities. The one said that he should leave and return to civilization and his fiancée while escaping the sickness that seemed to pervade that jungle for all Europeans. The other sensibility...
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