Why is Marlow fascinated by Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

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belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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When Marlow enters the jungle, he has heard many rumors and stories about Kurtz, who is seen as an almost mythical figure by many. The Accountant seems to worship Kurtz for his production of ivory, while the Station Manager and his uncle speak of Kurtz as though his exploitations are damaging to the Company. Every mention of Kurtz makes Marlow more and more curious, until Marlow is almost desperate to meet with him:

Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together?
[...]
 I was cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz.
(Conrad, Heart of Darkness, eNotes eText)

All the people building Kurtz up gave Marlow certain expectations, and he wants to meet Kurtz to see the truth behind all these disparate and contradictory stories. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, his expectations are so high that for a time he views Kurtz as a seven-foot-tall commanding presence, even though Kurtz is bedridden and invalid. Marlow does not view Kurtz as an opposite figure; instead, Marlow comes to realize that Kurtz is the worst of uninhibited man, released because the jungle has no checks and balances.

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Marlow is fascinated with meeting Kurtz, an extremely successful ivory agent, who has traveled deep into the Congo. Marlow hears many conflicting rumors about Kurtz as he travels towards the Inner Station. Various employees of the Company view Kurtz differently. Some admire and appreciate Kurtz's ability to collect ivory, while others are jealous and hope for his death. As Marlow journeys into Africa, he witnesses the corrupt, despicable nature of colonialism. After reading Kurtz's report for The International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, he is intrigued to find out whether or not Kurtz was able to maintain his morals and civility after living so long in the jungle. Kurtz is an enigmatic figure who is at the center of the Company and the African continent. Marlow is interested in meeting Kurtz in hopes of gaining some sort of supreme knowledge from a man with such unique experiences. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he is captivated by his eloquent speech. Marlow connects with Kurtz, who also opposes the Company, and gains valuable insight into the "heart of darkness." 

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