Heart Of Darkness And Maslow (906 words) Essay

Heart Of Darkness And Maslow
In the classic novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad takes us on a journey into
the soul of man. When the character of Marlow travels into the jungle of Africa
to find Kurtz, he realizes that he is in a place where the rules of society no
longer constrain human nature, and the frightening truths about human beings can
be observed first hand. Marlow finds that human nature is something terrible and
unlimited by observing the effects of such freedom on Kurtz. He also discovers
that human nature is able to be altered (subject to the constraints placed on it
by the environment), and that it is able to be either good or evil. The
temptation of evil, existing the most in an environment lacking any rules,
creates a turmoil in the human soul, as it struggles between its conscience and
its tendencies towards evil. Kurtz confides in Marlow near the end of the book,
and from him Marlow learns about human nature as he examines Kurtz’s destroyed
soul. Marlow says, “By being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within
itself, and….it had gone mad” (p.150). Marlow observes how Kurtz
struggles with himself, and the horrors of the wilderness that he had given in
to. When Marlow arrives at Kurtz’s station, he finds that Kurtz participates in
horrible ceremonies, like one in which he beheaded natives and placed their
heads on fence posts as symbols. Marlow believes that the wilderness
“whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of
which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude — and
the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating” (p.138). Without the
constraints of society, Kurtz is able to fulfill his inner desires and go beyond
any restraints that he may have had before. In Kurtz, Marlow sees “the
inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear,
yet struggling blindly with itself” (p.150). As Kurtz approaches death, he
struggles desperately with himself and the evil that he had resigned his soul
too. “..Both the diabolic love and the unearthly hate of the mysteries it
had penetrated fought for the possession of that soul satiated with primitive
emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of
success and power”(p.152). The conflict between good and evil is raging in
Kurtz’s soul at this time, as he struggles between the greatness that he had
possessed, and the emptiness of a soul tempted by evil. When first talking to
Marlow, Kurtz tells him that he was “on the threshold of great things”
(p.148). As they travel through the wilderness to leave the station that
destroyed Kurtz, Marlow comments, “Oh he struggled! he struggled! The
wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now — images of wealth
and fame revolving obsequiously round his inextinguishable gift of noble and
lofty expression” (p. 152). Even as he waits to die, Kurtz’s greatness
refused to completely submit as it fights the powerful force of evil that has
consumed his soul. Before he dies, Marlow observes on Kurtz’s face “the
expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror”(p.153).

All of human nature, evoked from the lack of constraints he found in the
wilderness, fought within him until the end – when he sums up his struggles and
observations of human nature with one phrase: “The horror! The
horror!” Marlow admires Kurtz for these words, because Kurtz had learned
and reached a conclusion on human nature in his last moment of life, and, as
Marlow says, “the most you can learn from [life] is some knowledge of
yourself….” (p. 154). Marlow also calls these words “a moral
victory” because they show that he had struggled to the end — that Kurtz
had not simply resigned to some state between good and evil, but he had been
able to judge everything that he had experienced, throwing out one phrase at the
end of his struggle that summed up human nature. This ability was Kurtz’s
greatness. His last words had “the appalling face of a glimpsed truth —
the strange commingling of desire and hate” (p.155). “The horror”
that Kurtz labels is the struggle between good and evil that a great man
experienced when faced with human nature in its purest form, without society’s
constraints. After Kurtz’s death, Marlow takes with him the knowledge of human
nature that he gains from him. He says, “I remembered his abject pleading,
his abject threats, the colossal scale of his vile desires, the meanness, the
torment, the tempestuous anguish of his soul” (p.159). Marlow sees his face
in windows, and hears his last words everywhere. He is haunted by the tormented
discoveries that Kurtz passed on to him, and when he confronts Kurtz’s intended,
who is a symbol of good, he is not able to corrupt her goodness by rendering
Kurtz the justice of passing on his words to others. Although he feels that he
has betrayed Kurtz, he still does not feel that he is able to pass on his
judgement because “It would have been too dark — too dark
altogether…” (p.164). Instead, Marlow retains the truth of human nature
within himself, mourning the terrible and traumatic end of the great man that
Kurtz was, and continued to be, in his mind. Kurtz was great because he answered
the question of human nature that haunts everyone. He found truth and fought the
battle of good and evil, and in the end was still able to judge himself with his
own harsh words: “The horror!” One is truly able to see this internal
struggle in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as Kurtz struggles between his
conscience and his tendencies towards evil.

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