what was the significance of Kurtz's dying words, "The horror! The horror!"? what was the significance of Kurtz's dying words, "The horror! The horror!"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The ambiguity of Kurtz's last words are meant to make readers reach their own conclusions about Kurtz's state of mind in his final lucid moment; we know this because Marlow has his own set of questions about what Kurtz is thinking at the end. Marlow looks at Kurtz and sees "somber pride," "ruthless power," "craven terror," as well as "intense and hopeless despair." If Marlow reads Kurtz's expressions correctly, the words "the horror, the horror" could be a recognition of what evil he has done in amassing his cache of ivory and consolidating his power over the natives; it could be awe and satisfaction at his own power, fear of the commencement of eternal punishment, or profound shame. Suffice to say that Kurtz does not die in a state of equanimity. Marlow believes that Kurtz sees a "vision" or "image" in his last moments and that it in some way provokes him.  

Later, as Marlow waits to speak with Kurtz's "intended," he recalls Kurtz's last words and imagines him "embracing, condemning,...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 695 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team