What's the role of the Black Mistress in Heart of Darkness?

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Heart of Darkness, female characters play a stereotypical role and appear quite infrequently.  Only a few women appear at all, and they serve as elements of contrast for Marlow. 

The Black Mistress in particular serves to contrast Kurtz's Intended.  The Intended is pure, innocent and believes wholly in the goodness of her fiance Kurtz.  The Black Mistress is wild, loud, and vicious, having been Kurtz  lover during his descent into darkness.  She is described as ‘‘wild-eyed and magnificent." 

The contrast between these two women represent the differences between the Kurtz who left The Intended in Belgium and the Kurtz who is worshipped by the natives in the Congo.    They represent, in effect, the duality of his existence.

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Heart of Darkness

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