In Heart of Darkness, how does Kurtz's mistress relate to the idea of corruption?

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

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Kurtz's love, "The Intended," waits for him to return from his mission, and is saddened when Marlow reports his death. Because she claims to have known him better than anyone else, it is likely that she was aware of his atrocities, at least to a certain extent. It is hinted that her family rejected Kurtz because he was not wealthy, and so his mad drive to collect more and more ivory and make himself a god among the natives might have been a direct result of that rejection. The Intended speaks highly of Kurtz, and as Marlow replies, he realizes that only her decision to think of Kurtz's actions as good separates her words from his:

She said suddenly, very low, 'He died as he lived.'

"'His end,' said I, with dull anger stirring in me, 'was in every way worthy of his life.'

"'And I was not with him,' she murmured. My anger subsided before a feeling of infinite pity.
(Conrad, Heart of Darkness, eNotes eText)

This despair on her part shows that she wanted to accompany Kurtz on his journey, no matter where it took him; she wanted to be there while he amassed wealth and fame, and was, in her own way, happy that he had become so well-known. However, her deliberate refusal to hear Marlow's double-meanings and to acknowledge Kurtz's atrocities speaks deeper to her own soul. Instead of understanding that Kurtz had become something monstrous, she demands to be placated in her beliefs, and so shows her selfish nature, no matter how based in her idea of love.

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