Considering in detail 1 or 2 passages, discuss the ways
in which Conrad presents Kurtz
Conrad has created the character of Kurtz out of all the contradictions and madness of imperialism. Like Marlow, he is of European descent and is described as half-French and half-English. He is also described as a universal genius and also, like Marlow, Kurtz comes to Africa with noble intentions of doing good things for the dark continent. He believes that the ivory Company should help the natives to a better way of life, but good and evil split Kurtz’s “hollow at the core” soul. Kurtz is the man who jumps off the edge of sanity and plunges into the darkness of insanity. Marlow, on the other hand, is the man who goes to the edge of sanity, looks over the edge, and has enough strength not to go over to the other side. As Marlow says, “he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot”. Conrad no doubt uses this contrast to highlight Kurtz’s flaws. In writing this book, Conrad drew inspiration from his own experience in the Congo: eight and a half years before writing the book, he had served as the captain of a Congo steamer, so he has used his experiences to good effect.
Conrad presents Kurtz as a madman. As the Company’s Chief Accountant remarks, “He will be a somebody in the Administration before long”. Kurtz chooses, nonetheless, to live in the jungles of Africa where he possesses god-like powers. His desire for power seems to outweigh any other personal need, such as comfort, emotion and feeling, such as love, and communication and contact with people of his kind. Marlow, when searching for Kurtz, asks him, “Do you know what you are doing?” Kurtz replies, “Perfectly”, a response which demonstrates his self-knowledge, suggesting that he is totally confident in himself, but he does not realise what is truly happening to him as he is running away. The fact that he answered this “raising his voice...
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