Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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In Heart of Darkness, outside Kurtz's home are some decorative poles topped with balls. No fence connects them. What do you think they are?

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When Marlow finally makes it to Kurtz in the depths of the rainforest, he finds a disturbing site. The poles outside Kurtz' home are not merely decorative balls. They are human heads. 

The full extent of Kurtz's authority at the Inner Station is now revealed to Marlow. There are heads of ‘‘rebels’’ on stakes surrounding Kurtz's hut, and Marlow speaks of Kurtz presiding over ‘‘unspeakable’’ rituals.

Kurtz has either suffered or chosen a break with the morals of society. He has become a savage - much more savage than the figures in the novel who are given the moniker "savage". 

 ‘‘The horror! The horror!’’ With this utterance, Kurtz presumably realizes the depth to which his unbridled greed and brutality have brought him.

The severed heads on the poles outside his house are a graphic image of how far Kurtz has gone in his break from recognized moral codes. The limits of his behavior are determined only by his own imagination. 

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StephanieRR | Student

I think it is noteworthy that all but one of these decorative heads are turned inward facing Kurtz's house. If all of the heads had been facing outward, it might only be a matter of Kurtz wanting to give a warning to any natives that he has absolute power. However, the heads facing inward point to just how twisted Kurtz has become. There is no clear reason stated as to why he has chosen this positioning, but the speculations are disturbing enough. It could be that he wants to always observe his handiwork because he takes some kind of sick pride in what he has done. Perhaps he wants to play a part for any observers, showing them that he can look into such grotesque faces without fear. Whatever the case, the inward-facing heads speak more for the "darkness" in Kurtz soul than heads pointing outward.