Heart of Darkness Questions and Answers
by Joseph Conrad

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Who said, "I! I! I am a simple man. I have no great thoughts. i want nothing from nobody. How can you compare me to . . ."

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Russian, who is also referred to as "the Harlequin," makes these comments to Marlow as he is defending Kurtz's savage nature. After the Russian explains to Marlow that Kurtz is severely ill, Marlow notices that the small ornamental balls on the tops of the fence posts are actually severed heads. Marlow is appalled and disgusted by this discovery, and the Russian apologetically explains that the severed heads are those of rebels. Marlow then sarcastically comments that the rebel heads seem very subdued at the moment and proceeds to laugh hysterically.

The Russian continues to defend Kurtz's actions, which prompts Marlow to indirectly ask how he has avoided compromising his civility. The Russian responds by saying,

I! I! I am a simple man. I have no great thoughts. I want nothing from anybody. (Conrad, 98)

The Russian then continues to praise Kurtz and lament his illness. Unlike Marlow, the Russian reveres Kurtz, and Conrad refers to him as Kurtz's disciple. He undoubtedly defends Kurtz's violent, unjust actions in the African bush, which is something that Marlow finds unforgivable.

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cybil eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Russian, also known as the harlequin because of his clothing, makes these remarks in a conversation with Marlow when Marlow is asking about the heads on stakes at Kurtz's compound. The Russian, whom Conrad describes as "Kurtz's last disciple," declares that those heads belonged to "rebels"; Marlow is nevertheless appalled at the savagery and makes it clear he does not idolize Kurtz as the Russian does. The harlequin tries to rationalize Kurtz's behavior, noting the extreme conditions under which he's lived, and Marlow then asks him, "And what about you?" In response, the Russian humbly makes these comments. He cannot imagine comparing himself to Kurtz, the man who has "enlarged" his mind.

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