Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Kurtz

Extended Character Analysis

Kurtz is a mysterious figure throughout much of the novel. Marlow first hears about him from the Chief Accountant, who describes him as a first-class agent in charge of a very important trading post. Kurtz contributes more ivory than all the other posts combined. The Chief Accountant wants Marlow to tell Kurtz that he is doing a satisfactory job, and he tells Marlow that he expects Kurtz to advance in the company.

The General Manager says that Kurtz is rumored to be ill and that his station is in jeopardy, which is why Marlow needs to hasten to the Inner Station. From the brickmaker, Marlow learns that Kurtz and Marlow were recommended by the same people, implying that they have similar backgrounds. Kurtz’s presence has upset the brickmaker and the General Manager, who both have professional ambitions that are threatened by Kurtz’s high volume of ivory. Though Kurtz could have been relieved and returned to Europe, he remained at the Inner Station.

On their way to the Inner Station, Marlow and the steamboat crew come across the Russian’s old campsite, where a faded message reads, “Wood for you. Hurry up. Approach cautiously.” Unbeknownst to Marlow, when Kurtz discovers that the steamboat is making its way to the Inner Station, he orders a group of Africans to attack the ship. Marlow is able to scare them off with the boat whistle.

Marlow mentions that Kurtz had been charged with writing a pamphlet about the Congo and the Africans. Kurtz posits that whites must appear like gods to the Africans in order to positively influence them. Marlow describes the writing as inspired, high-minded, noble, and eloquent. He suspects it was written before Kurtz attended African rituals and celebrations, which were offered to Kurtz as if he were a god. Marlow likens these rituals to witchcraft and considers them corrupting forces. Kurtz also adds an alarming postscript to the paper that reads “Exterminate all the brutes!”

The Russian provides further insight into Kurtz’s character, saying that Kurtz would “forget himself” when he...

(The entire section is 527 words.)