Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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What role does the harlequin have in Heart of Darkness?

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The Harlequin/Russian trader acts as a means of characterizing Kurtz. We gain most of our information about Kurtz through him.

The harlequin gives us a rather warped view of Kurtz. He speaks of him with awe and reverence. "Don't you talk with Mr. Kurtz?" Marlow asks him. " 'You don't talk with a man like that—you listen to him,' he exclaimed with severe exaltation." He mentions that Kurtz speaks beautifully on various subjects, offering love as an example. Paradoxically, he also mentions that Kurtz stole his ivory at gunpoint and killed and plundered in African villages.

The Russian man seems also to represent an immature, ignorant exaltation of imperialism and colonization as a glorious and honorable undertaking. He is a young white man. Marlow say he is ruled by an "absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure" and that he dotes on Kurtz because he has not thought it through. And maybe it's true. The Russian sees the brutality and madness of the colonizing Kurtz and...

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