Whats the major most important conflict in the novel?
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In a broad sense, the most important conflict to me in this novel is man vs man or man's inhumanity to man. If you read the themes section here on enotes (see the link below), you will see that the major themes all have to do with man and his relationship to his fellow man. Deception and hypocrisy, for example. The Belgians have colonized the Congo and under the guise of trying to improve conditions for the natives, have exploited the indigenous people for their own benefit. When this novel was written, Britain had an extensive world-wide empire that included many under-developed nations that were exploited in similar ways. This novel shows that when man is after riches (gold, ivory), his heart can turn dark and he becomes consumed by evil. This is what happens to Kurtz. There is also racism involved, another example of man's inhumanity to man or the man vs man conflict. Violence and cruelty are also examples of this conflict.
Personally, I like to read this book as being similar to Crime & Punishment. Concerned with a central figure who attempts to create his own morality and leave the rest of humanity behind to become something different and better - a new creature, an uber-man.
According to this reading, the central conflict of this novel is found in the struggle against moral limits and social structure. As Marlowe moves deeper into the jungle, he moves further away from society with its norms and its agreed upon modes of conduct. There are no rules in Kurtz world.
Maybe the conflict can be summed up in the question: What happens when society no longer exists in the mind of a person, when a man is faced with the chaos of an un-ordered world?
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