Heart Of Darkness And MaslowIn the classic novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad takes us on a journey intothe soul of man. When the character of Marlow travels into the jungle of Africato find Kurtz, he realizes that he is in a place where the rules of society nolonger constrain human nature, and the frightening truths about human beings canbe observed first hand. Marlow finds that human nature is something terrible andunlimited by observing the effects of such freedom on Kurtz. He also discoversthat human nature is able to be altered (subject to the constraints placed on itby the environment), and that it is able to be either good or evil. Thetemptation of evil, existing the most in an environment lacking any rules,creates a turmoil in the human soul, as it struggles between its conscience andits tendencies towards evil.Order now
Kurtz confides in Marlow near the end of the book,and from him Marlow learns about human nature as he examines Kurtz’s destroyedsoul. Marlow says, “By being alone in the wilderness, it had looked withinitself, and. . . . it had gone mad” (p.
150). Marlow observes how Kurtzstruggles with himself, and the horrors of the wilderness that he had given into. When Marlow arrives at Kurtz’s station, he finds that Kurtz participates inhorrible ceremonies, like one in which he beheaded natives and placed theirheads on fence posts as symbols. Marlow believes that the wilderness”whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things ofwhich he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude — andthe whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating” (p.
138). Without theconstraints of society, Kurtz is able to fulfill his inner desires and go beyondany restraints that he may have had before. In Kurtz, Marlow sees “theinconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear,yet struggling blindly with itself” (p. 150). As Kurtz approaches death, hestruggles desperately with himself and the evil that he had resigned his soultoo.
“. . Both the diabolic love and the unearthly hate of the mysteries ithad penetrated fought for the possession of that soul satiated with primitiveemotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances ofsuccess and power”(p. 152). The conflict between good and evil is raging inKurtz’s soul at this time, as he struggles between the greatness that he hadpossessed, and the emptiness of a soul tempted by evil. When first talking toMarlow, Kurtz tells him that he was “on the threshold of great things”(p.
148). As they travel through the wilderness to leave the station thatdestroyed Kurtz, Marlow comments, “Oh he struggled! he struggled! Thewastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now — images of wealthand fame revolving obsequiously round his inextinguishable gift of noble andlofty expression” (p. 152). Even as he waits to die, Kurtz’s greatnessrefused to completely submit as it fights the powerful force of evil that hasconsumed his soul. Before he dies, Marlow observes on Kurtz’s face “theexpression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror”(p. 153).
All of human nature, evoked from the lack of constraints he found in thewilderness, fought within him until the end – when he sums up his struggles andobservations of human nature with one phrase: “The horror! Thehorror!” Marlow admires Kurtz for these words, because Kurtz had learnedand reached a conclusion on human nature in his last moment of life, and, asMarlow says, “the most you can learn from is some knowledge ofyourself. . . .
” (p. 154). Marlow also calls these words “a moralvictory” because they show that he had struggled to the end — that Kurtzhad not simply resigned to some state between good and evil, but he had beenable to judge everything that he had experienced, throwing out one phrase at theend of his struggle that summed up human nature. This ability was Kurtz’sgreatness. 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 manexperienced when faced with human nature in its purest form, without society’sconstraints. After Kurtz’s death, Marlow takes with him the knowledge of humannature that he gains from him. He says, “I remembered his abject pleading,his abject threats, the colossal scale of his vile desires, the meanness, thetorment, the tempestuous anguish of his soul” (p. 159).
Marlow sees his facein windows, and hears his last words everywhere. He is haunted by the tormenteddiscoveries 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 renderingKurtz the justice of passing on his words to others. Although he feels that hehas betrayed Kurtz, he still does not feel that he is able to pass on hisjudgement because “It would have been too dark — too darkaltogether. . .
” (p. 164). Instead, Marlow retains the truth of human naturewithin himself, mourning the terrible and traumatic end of the great man thatKurtz was, and continued to be, in his mind. Kurtz was great because he answeredthe question of human nature that haunts everyone. He found truth and fought thebattle of good and evil, and in the end was still able to judge himself with hisown harsh words: “The horror!” One is truly able to see this internalstruggle in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as Kurtz struggles between hisconscience and his tendencies towards evil.