What role does Immortality play in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness?

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conrad's story has to do with the essential, and eternal, savagery of the world. When you think about the idea of "immortality" in this text you tend to think about Kurtz, and his ambition to be a "god" to his "people," but actually what is "immortal" in the book has nothing to do with gods, or men -- it is the spirit of wildness, the irrefutable and unchangeable reality of things, that is at issue. Compared to this timeless reality, man doesn't count for much. No matter what humanity (especially the West, as represented by "the company") tries to do to transform nature or exploit it, the essential nature of the wild remains immutable and fixed, eternal and eternally indifferent to the ambitions of humans, Kurtz included. This is what Marlow means when he talks about the "fascination of the abomination" -- the "abomination" is the absolute indifference of the world, and the "fascination" is man's unquenchable desire to make an enduring mark.