Charlie Marlow's search for Kurtz in Heart of Darkness symbolizes a voyage of self-discovery because Marlow is forced to come to terms with who he is and who he is not as he travels farther and farther up the Congo River. Joseph Conrad , the author, contrasts Marlow's choices...
Charlie Marlow's search for Kurtz in Heart of Darkness symbolizes a voyage of self-discovery because Marlow is forced to come to terms with who he is and who he is not as he travels farther and farther up the Congo River. Joseph Conrad, the author, contrasts Marlow's choices with those of Kurtz to show how the two men emerge on the other side of their experiences with different conclusions.
Kurtz and Marlow represent two different possibilities of what a man can be. Their relationship is first shown when Marlow and Kurtz are said to belong to the same gang; this is because they were both vouched for by the same people to get their jobs. Marlow remains fixated on Kurtz even before they meet.
As Marlow learns more about Kurtz, he discovers more about himself. The trip up the Congo takes him away from the world he's inhabited in the past and gives him the opportunity to become something else. It would be relatively easy for him to go mad like Kurtz—but he doesn't. The deeper he gets into the wilderness, the more Marlow is forced to confront his own character. Kurtz had decided to civilize everyone in Africa; instead, he's consumed by the jungle and driven to madness. After talking with Kurtz before the man dies, Marlow decides to return home.
Marlow gets close enough to the edge to see the darkness that consumes Kurtz. However, he doesn't let it consume him, even though Kurtz's final words haunt him. Marlow says:
Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up—he had judged. "The horror!"
In the end, Kurtz's darkness is something that Marlow has to turn away from. Kurtz is the other side of the coin—an illustration of what could have been in Marlow's heart. This leads Marlow to self-discovery, as Marlow recognizes that he doesn't have to be like Kurtz. His nature is shown in the end when he talks about Kurtz with his fiancee in England.
Kurtz's fiancee doesn't know about his descent into madness or his evil acts. She knows him as a good and kind person, saying that "Men looked up to him—his goodness shone in every act." Marlow doesn't contradict her. Instead, he agrees with her and lets her maintain her false image of the man.
Though Kurtz's last words were actually, "The horror! The horror!" Marlow doesn't tell Kurtz's fiancee this. Instead, he says that Kurtz's last words were her name. This shows the kindness in him; though he would have preferred to be honest and dissuade her of her notions of Kurtz's goodness, he chooses instead to comfort her and give her something to hold onto.