In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, what is the point of Kurtz's "Intended," when after a year, she still speaks of Kurtz as a superhero?  Why does she go on and on about his greatness?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Kurtz's "Intended" (his fiancée) has been waiting for him to return to her in Belgium.

It may well be that the man the woman remembers was, in fact, a great man; but the man he became in the harsh and soul-robbing profession he undertook to serve the Company (with no regard to the cost of not only human life, but also the cost of one's humanity) has changed him. Marlow found a very different kind of man at the Inner Station.

Kurtz's Intended has been holding on the memory of the man she knew. When he left, she infers that she was only able to speak to his mother about him, while the older woman was still alive.  

I had learned that her engagement with Kurtz had been disapproved by her people. 

In light of this, having no one to talk to after learning of Kurtz's death, Marlow compares her need to speak of Kurtz to the way...

...thirsty men drink.

It is hard to be certain if Kurtz was the man she thought him to be. It seems he was—and still is—completely dedicated to him, even now in his death:

'Ah, but I believed in him more than anyone on earth—more than his own mother, more than—himself. He needed me! Me! I would have treasured every sigh, every word, every sign, every glance.'

We cannot be sure that the Intended is reliable. It seems very unlike the Kurtz that Marlow meets to not believe in himself—as his fiancée indicates. It seems as if her perceptions are based upon a man larger than life...but was he really lonely for the want of her...

'You were with him—to the last? I think of his loneliness. Nobody near to understand him as I would have understood. Perhaps no one to hear...'

'To the very end,' I said, shakily. 'I heard his very last words...' I stopped in a fright.

'Repeat them,' she murmured in a heartbroken tone. 'I want—something—something—to—to live with.'...

...'The last word he pronounced was—your name.'

I heard a light sigh and then my heart stood still...'I knew it—I was sure!'

In some ways, the Intended allows the reader to believe that Kurtz always had something special about him. Her behavior may simply reinforce what Marlow witnessed in the Congo: the adulation, adoration, praise—and even envy—of the "greatness" of this man. The Intended's vision of Kurtz is very different than that of the other Company men—for she remembers Kurtz with love.

'Men looked up to him—his goodness shone in every act...'

However, Kurtz's fiancée's perceptions reinforces the power and the charisma of Kurtz to compel his peers, as well as the native Africans who idolized him, to..."worship"...him. Marlow, as an outsider, has been able to see Kurtz in a light that no one else can. In the end, Marlow could not tell the truth to the dead man's mourning bride-to-be.

The Intended's dedication to Kurtz is similar to that of the Company—showing that few really knew the man: Marlow is the one witness to "The horror! The horror!," and he cannot bring himself to reveal what he knows to any but the casual company of other sailors on the ship where he shares his tale.

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Heart of Darkness

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