In Heart of Darkness, Conrad conveys Marlowe’s tale of Africa. The Captain begins his tale with his acceptance for a job in Africa no one else wants. Even though the captain receives warning of the darkness in Africa, he ignores it and soon leaves for his journey. When he soon comes to Africa he sees the Company’s true colors. The Company first appears to have come to Africa to transform the Africans from the savages to civilized people. The more time Marlowe spends in Africa he soon understands the true reason the company is there, all they want is the ivory and it doesn’t matter how they get it or if it cost them their souls. Through Conrad characterization of the Kurtz, the Natives, and the representatives he illustrates that while the darkness of egotism exists in all, how the darkness is restrained, or not, is different for each. The freedom of the forest brings out dark aspects in man, but takes something within oneself to restrain it, which Kurtz lacks. To Marlowe Kurtz throughout the novel has been depicted as a man who is able to obtained huge amounts of ivory and is quite admired by the representatives. As soon as Marlowe meets Kurtz he sees “the Horror, the Horror “that is Kurtz. With the freedom to govern himself, he no longer has to restrain satisfying his greed. It’s all “my intended, my ivory station, my river, my--” (115) to Kurtz. He believes everything belonged to him and if it didn’t it must belong to him by any means necessary. Even the methods that Kurtz employs to strike compliance and fear from the Africans to get what he wants the most, ivory. The heads Kurtz mounted on stakes outside his hut: “showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts” (Ross). The discovery that desire remains insatiable because it originates from a deep physic wound (Ross). Even though everyone presents egotism Kurtz has no humanity, pride, or guilt to restrain it. All there is “the inconvincible mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear. His lack of restraint arises from the lack of an inner core of faith (Ridley). He has no inner faith so his egotism craves satisfaction. His last words like the sound the native helmsman hears at his death, “a whisper at some image, at some vision,” recognition of the final end of temptation, desire and surrender without restraint (Ridley). Through all this Kurtz “has taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land.” The Natives are seen as the savages, but they possess more restraint than that of the Europeans. When the natives are on their journey they soon run out of food and have nothing to restrain them from eating the pilgrims but they don’t. On noting the Africans' restraint, Marlow responds, "And these chaps too had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield" .For Marlow, “no fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out disgusting simply does not exist where hunger is” ; in fact, their most basic needs determine their behavior. Because Marlow considers Africans more animal than human, he is surprised by the restraint of the Africans in his steamboat. Such self-control is obviously inconsistent with his view of the African (Lacky). Even though they seem like nothing but savages they hold within themselves something that restrains them from satisfying their greed or egotism. “It takes a man all his inborn strength to fight hunger properly”. Even when they commit an act of savagery they do so with a certain restraint. When the African’s father was being wiped, the son could have committed a violent crime but he chose to make “a tentative jab with a spear at the white man”. Whereas the representatives would just simply want to waste lead into the forest simply so they could get ivory. The natives are seen as savages throughout the novel, but they possess something neither the company holds, restraint. Even though the representatives are like Kurtz in restraint, they exert their egotism in a more inhuman manner without any guilt. There “was a desire to get appointed to a trading post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentage”. They didn’t care for how they would get the ivory as long as they got it. They are willing to just waste lead into the forest just to take an obstacle out of the way to achieve their greed for ivory. Indeed, throughout Heart of Darkness evil is lack of restraint; not apathy or passivity, and not temptation itself, but the succumbing thereto. The paralleling of Kurtz by Marlow's native helmsman helps to make this clear. The helmsman, who brings his own death, is explicitly akin to Kurtz, “He had no restraint, no restraint—just like Kurtz—a tree swayed by the wind”; and like Kurtz, at the moment of death he seems to see into the horror of his condition, “... in the very last moment, as though in response to some sign we could not see, to some whisper we could not hear, he frowned heavily, and that frown gave to his black death mask an inconceivably somber, brooding, and menacing expression”(Ridley). Even the representatives finally learned of how Kurtz got that much ivory the manager called it an “unsound method” which illustrates how dark their hearts are. It also illustrates their lack of restraint when it comes to accomplishing what they want which is ivory. They condone what Kurtz did for ivory and would do the same thing because they know it worked effectively. Even though Kurtz and the representatives display both egotism and lack restraint but the representatives illustrate a more disturbing aspect of egotism. Through all this egotism without restrain the company and Kurtz will lose who they are as people. They will essentially be hallowed: they will have a hole where their soul is supposed to be. They might obtain all the ivory they could imagine but at what cost? They will have to face the fact that with all the ivory they have obtain after it is gone what will be in them but an empty soul. Without restraining of egotism people would be “will be lost” “utterly lost”. Works Cited
Lackey, Michael. "The Moral Conditions for Genocide in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1)." College Literature 32.1 (2005): 20+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. Ridley, Florence H. "The Ultimate Meaning Of Heart of Darkness." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 18.1 (June 1963): 43-53. Rpt. InLiterature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. Ross, Stephen. "Desire in Heart of Darkness." Conradiana 36.1-2 (2004): 65+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.