Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In Heart of Darkness, why does Marlow describe Kurtz as a "universal genius"?

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Marlow calls Kurtz a universal genius because of his take on humanity and his talents in a wide variety of subjects.

Marlow has been interested in Kurtz since he first heard about the man. He wasn't sure why Kurtz had so many people discussing him; he didn't know what the man's motives were or why he made the choices he did. It was difficult to separate the truth from the fabrications. Once Marlow met Kurtz, however, he was able to see more of the man himself.

Kurtz is never completely defined by Marlow. Marlow isn't sure what his primary interest and talent was because he was good at writing and at painting. Marlow says, "To this day I am unable to say what was Kurtz’s profession, whether he ever had any—which was the greatest of his talents." He hears of Kurtz as an excellent musician, a painter,...

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