Ironically, the battle of civilization against barbarism in Heart of Darkness occurs within the moral fiber of the European characters, not between the Africans and the Europeans. Kurtz is the prime illustration of this battle between civilization and barbarism. He comes down to Africa from London and his beautiful Intended, then, in the wilds of the Congo, he becomes a cruel and barbarous task master who goes beyond every limit of civilized ethics and morality.
In contrast to him stand the native Africans who surround him. As Marlowe shows when he first enters the Congo River, the Africans are respectful and courteous without any designs of dangerous behavior toward their fellow European passengers. Even when food supplies run low, they show exemplary conduct putting to the lie the rumors and myths of their barbaric manners and ways. Conrad's most significant point is held within this battle between civilization and barbarism, which is that the light of Europe hides a heart of darkness that is not paralleled on the dark continent of Africa.