Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In Heart of Darkness, how are Marlow and Kurtz similar or different? 

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both Marlow and Kurtz are symbols of the mechanism by which colonization took place and was sustained. A trope of much colonialist literature and of representations of the European experience in Asia and Africa is an attraction-repulsion the white man feels toward "the natives" and their cultures. In George Orwell's Burmese Days, for example, there are constant allusions to Flory's sense of how alien, how disturbing, the Burmese culture is to him personally. Yet he has come to see Burma as his "home" and does not want to go back to England. In Heart of Darkness the scenario is a more spectacular (and horrifying) manifestation of the same thing. Kurtz has gone mad, merging himself with the "native's" culture so completely that he has set himself up as a god over the people.

Marlow, fortunately, retains his sanity but arguably the same mystical and pathological connection with the colonized country is affecting him as well. Something drives him on into the interior to uncover the terrifying...

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