November 26, 2011
IB English Year 1
Heart of Darkness Commentary
Heart of Darkness is a novella written by Conrad, a parallel of the very experiences that Conrad has gone through and ultimately a look at human nature at its lowest and cruelest form. The book centers around Marlow, an introspective sailor, and his journey up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, reputed to be an idealistic man of great abilities, as if he was a deity. Ultimately Kurtz’s mental collapse and subsequent monstrosities culminate into a tragic anti-climatic death in which Kurtz utters the dying words “The horror! The horror!” His dying words seem to reflect Kurtz own feelings and realizations of his very being, his demise and his regret for the circumstances of his situation.
Kurtz’s mental degradation through his experiences in Africa causes him to spiral down the path of “darkness” and eventually causes him to feel horror for his actions and what he has experienced. “The powers of darkness have claimed him for their own." and Kurtz’s almost insatiable hunger for ivory causes him to lose his identity; unable to be totally beast and never able to be fully human. Kurtz ultimately is “alone, far in the depths of the forest” and despite his willingness to kill for ivory “he hated all this, and somehow he couldn’t get away”. The conditions in the jungle reflect the horror of Kurtz's words: the cannibalism and the human skulls on the fence posts. Slaves forced to work with no food and becoming nothing more then “black shadows of disease and starvation” Kurtz has fallen a complete victim to the power of the jungle and its darkness. Realizing this folly and also the sheer darkness of that which surrounds him Kurtz’s utter the words “The horror! The horror!” if only to relieve himself of the maddening burden.
Kurtz, feeling his impending death, also seems to say these particular dying words due to regret. It is no secret that Kurtz seems to believe...