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Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad

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The relationship and dynamics between Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness

Summary:

The relationship between Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness is complex and evolves throughout the story. Initially, Marlow is intrigued by Kurtz's reputation and accomplishments. As they finally meet, Marlow becomes both horrified and fascinated by Kurtz's descent into madness and moral corruption. This dynamic ultimately leads Marlow to reflect on the darkness within every human soul.

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In Heart of Darkness, how are Marlow and Kurtz similar or different?

Both Marlow and Kurtz are symbols of the mechanism by which colonization took place and was sustained. A trope of much colonialist literature and of representations of the European experience in Asia and Africa is an attraction-repulsion the white man feels toward "the natives" and their cultures. In George Orwell's Burmese Days, for example, there are constant allusions to Flory's sense of how alien, how disturbing, the Burmese culture is to him personally. Yet he has come to see Burma as his "home" and does not want to go back to England. In Heart of Darkness the scenario is a more spectacular (and horrifying) manifestation of the same thing. Kurtz has gone mad, merging himself with the "native's" culture so completely that he has set himself up as a god over the people.

Marlow, fortunately, retains his sanity but arguably the same mystical and pathological connection with the colonized country is affecting him as well. Something drives him on into the interior to uncover the terrifying mystery of Kurtz that is lurking there. Marlow knows from the start that the whole project of European imperialism is wrong. The dysfunctional situation he sees upon arrival in Africa is described in detail. The constant obstacles and dangers of travel to the interior to find Kurtz would, one would think, deter any sensible man from continuing this journey. Marlow is driven on by an inner demon similar to, but a mere shadow of, the one that has animated Kurtz and plunged him into psychosis.

If the two are both manifesting a disturbed mental state of whatever degree, Conrad's ultimate message is that European colonization is, in some way, a form of psychosis. The mindset behind it is a detachment from reality and the delusion that one people have a right to "take over" or control another. Kurtz's self- deification is an exaggerated, distorted and bizarre version of the belief-system underlying imperialism.

It is interesting that although this is the "moral" of the story, it is never stated openly and unequivocally by Marlow. The whole intricate style of Conrad's prose is an analogue to the mysteries and complications of the meaning of this tale. It is as if the characters are existing in some fog-like opium dream in which reality and illusion are merged. For all the intelligence with which Marlow views the situation, his ultimate reaction is a puzzled horror which shows both his distinctness from Kurtz's actions, and paradoxically his resemblance somehow to the inner soul of Kurtz.

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In Heart of Darkness, how are Marlow and Kurtz similar or different?

Marlow and Kurtz are both similar in that they are adventurous individuals, who are fascinated by the idea of experiencing Africa. Both individuals also begin their journeys with the seemingly (at the time) morally upright intention of bringing civilization to the tribal inhabitants of Africa. Marlow and Kurtz initially perceive themselves as bastions of civility bearing the torch of justice, truth, and authority into the enigmatic regions of the dark jungle. Both characters also represent Western civilization and are products of European society.

Despite their many similarities, Marlow and Kurtz's differences are dramatically revealed when Marlow arrives at Kurtz's Inner Station. Marlow discovers that Kurtz has become a maniacal tyrant, who manipulates the Natives into conducting brutal raids into other tribes in order to accumulate more ivory. Kurtz is perceived as a god by the Natives and uses his elevated status to attain wealth for himself and the Company. Since he arrived in the Congolese jungle, Kurtz has become corrupted by greed and power, which decays his soul. Unlike Kurtz, Marlow has not yet become corrupted and chooses to leave the Company after experiencing the true nature of European imperialism. 

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In Heart of Darkness, how are Marlow and Kurtz similar or different?

The two characters of Kurtz and Marlow are curiously interlinked in this book. Marlow is shown to have a somewhat supernatural fascination with Kurtz from the first moment he hears about him, and his sense of anticipation at finally meeting the man he has heard so many different conflicting rumours about is palpable as he makes his way up the river into the "heart of darkness." In a sense, the two characters could be said to be doubles, or doppelgangers, in that they share a strange link that allows them to be compared and contrasted. In Kurtz, Marlow sees the fate of the colonial endeavour as Kurtz, a white man, went to Africa with such hopes of doing good, but in the end descended in to pure evil. This is something Marlow is well aware of as he gets to know him. Note how he describes Kurtz in the following quote:

His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.

The way that Kurtz is consistently associated with darkness indicates his moral degradation. Yet at the same time Marlow finds himself enraptured by his words and the power of his rhetoric. The crucial difference between them however is that Marlow is able to cling on to his sense of moral goodness, whereas the "impenetrable darkness" of Kurtz is something that shows his character is so steeped in evil that he has lost the ability to distinguish between good and evil any more. His final words, "The horror! The horror!", act as a condemnation of both his life and acts and also the colonial enterprise. Marlow of course shows that he is not completely untainted at the end of the story, as his lie to the Intended shows, yet the fact that he is described as a "buddha" as he shares his tale indiates that there is some kind of goodness that remains uncorrupted. The characters are linked through their difference to colonialism.

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In Heart of Darkness, how are Marlow and Kurtz similar or different?

There are a great deal of differences between Kurtz and Marlow in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, most of which stem from the fact that Marlow functions primarily as a narrator, while Kurtz often serves as the true focus of Marlow's narrative. As such, we learn much about the development of Kurtz as a character, while we learn much less about Marlow.

Though Marlow is not without his own complexities, his primary duty in the story is to relate the tale to the sailors waiting on the Nellie. While Marlow has intriguing personality quirks of his own (he quickly reveals himself to be an intellectual but cynical individual), the reader is given little insight into Marlow's deeper being, as he exists in the story mainly to observe and comment on the actions of others. 

Kurtz, on the other hand, is the definition of charisma. Originally a principled and idealistic individual, Kurtz quickly becomes drunk with power, and his grim descent into madness is one of the main points of the novella. As such, while Marlow tends to avoid the spotlight, Kurtz is notable for commanding attention with his hypnotic voice and infectious ideas. As such, the primary difference between Kurtz and Marlow is that, while Marlow is relatively nondescript and undeveloped (in general terms), Kurtz is a vividly drawn character with immense depth who largely commands the main arc of the narrative.  

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In Heart of Darkness, how are Marlow and Kurtz similar or different?

In Joseph Conrad's novel, it is implied that Kurtz is an example of what happens to people who live in the jungle. Though Kurtz gained fame, glory and riches through his travels into the jungle in search of ivory, his success was not long lived. Marlow, when he originally left London, wanted the same things as Kurtz. He too wished to be successful in the new ivory trade and to provide for himself with gained wealth. The parallels between Kurtz's and Marlow's intentions are clear in the beginning of the novel.

However, Kurtz went too deep into the jungle, too close to the native people, and stayed for too long - madness and death resulted from his stay! Marlow learned from Kurtz and from his death. Marlow turned back from the heart of the jungle and fought the darkness that threatened him. The characters' similarities start to disappear when Kurtz dies, for Marlow changes his goals and goes on to live a much longer life. Both men realise the great capacity for evil in the world, which is an important lesson that affects them in different ways.

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What is the relationship between Marlowe and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

Marlow's relationship with Kurtz goes through several iterations. At first, before they meet, Marlow does not have any strong opinions about Kurtz. That changes when he learns about Kurtz going into the jungle and leaving "civilization" behind. As someone deeply interested in Africa, this development greatly intrigues Marlow. While he waits for the boat to be ready for the journey, Marlow has plenty of time to ponder Kurtz's character. As the time for the river journey approaches, Marlow becomes more and more eager to meet Kurtz. He is particularly intrigued by Kurtz's success in the ivory trade.

This relationship quickly changes once the two men meet. The respect and interest that Marlow once held quickly turn to disdain and distrust. Marlow is particularly unsettled by the extent to which Kurtz has turned his back on European values and adopted African ones. However, Marlow does not blame Kurtz himself. Rather, he sees the African environment as the culprit in this, feeling it has turned Kurtz mad with power and capable of ghastly acts.

Marlow also recognizes some important similarities he shares with Kurtz. Despite how much he comes to detest Kurtz, Marlow still feels a connection with him. He recognizes that some of the same darkness that he sees in Kurtz is present in himself. In this way, Marlow comes to see Kurtz as someone he may have become like if circumstances had been different.

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What are Marlow's feelings upon meeting Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

Meeting Kurtz was a life-changing moment for Marlow; the fact that Marlow tells the tale of Heart of Darkness is evidence of the meeting’s dramatic impact on his psyche. Marlow’s meeting with Kurtz is not simply a dramatic moment, it is the climax of the entire journey! To demonstrate just how central Kurtz is to Marlow’s narrative, here is a partial catalog of the references we encounter along Marlow’s journey which, remember, is being told as he reflects on his experiences.

Marlow first hears Kurtz’s name upon his arrival at the Outer Station in the Congo when The Accountant mentions in passing, “In the Interior, you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.” When pressed, The Accountant reveals only that Kurtz is a “remarkable man” but refuses to discuss the matter further, except to disclose that he gathers more ivory for the Company than all the other traders combined. The Accountant makes an odd request of Marlow: he asks that he tell Kurtz that “everything here is very satisfactory.”

With this strange and vague information about Kurtz ringing in his head, Marlow sets off on his overland journey to the Central Station. When he arrives, most conversation in the ramshackle camp centers on Kurtz. However, the tenor at the Central Station is different from The Accountant’s. The Central Station men refer to Kurtz as "that man" and seethe with jealousy over Kurtz's success despite their admission that he is a “universal genius.”

During his lengthy stay, while waiting for rivets, Marlow finds some of Kurtz's art: a somber portrayal of a woman “draped and blindfolded, carrying a torch.” Marlow also learns that Kurtz has overstayed his contract and that, upon paddling down the river for 300 miles to deliver ivory, he had suddenly decided to reverse course and return to the jungle. These and many other small details combine to transform Kurtz into a mystery, a puzzle that can only be solved by meeting and talking to the enigmatic ivory hunter.

Over the two-month journey to Kurtz's Inner Station, Marlow claims that “To me, [the river] crawled towards Kurtz—exclusively.” This demonstrates just how central Kurtz had become to Marlow’s Congo experience, even before he set eyes on the ivory trader. Marlow also claims that Kurtz was “as though he had been an enchanted princess sleeping in a fabulous castle.” These increasingly frequent references to Kurtz in Marlow’s narrative highlight the central importance Kurtz plays in Marlow’s reflections on his time in the Belgian Congo.

When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he finds the hollowed shell of a man reduced by physical and moral sickness. Marlow repeatedly refers to Kurtz as a “shade,” a “wraith,” and a “phantom,” more ghost than man after years of brutality in the jungle. Marlow describes his first glimpse of Kurtz:

It was as though an animated image of death carved out of old ivory had been shaking his hand with menaces. . . . I saw him open his mouth wide—it gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him.

This description, along with the final words Kurtz utters hours later, “The horror—the horror!” only serve to deepen the enigma for Marlow. The entire narrative of Heart of Darkness can be viewed as Marlow’s rambling attempt to untangle his perception of Kurtz and discover how such a “remarkable man” became “hollow to the core.”

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What are Marlow's feelings upon meeting Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

When Marlow meets Kurtz for the first time, Kurtz is lying on a stretcher carried by several native Africans. Marlow refers to Kurtz as an "atrocious phantom" and is disgusted by his gaunt, emaciated appearance. Marlow also mentions that Kurtz looked as if he was seven feet long and describes him as an "animated image of death carved out of old ivory." In Marlow's opinion, Kurtz is already dead and is nothing but a corrupted soul waiting to die. After Kurtz speaks to the Manager, he tells Marlow that he has been reading about him and is glad that he has arrived. Marlow then comments on the sound of Kurtz's enticing voice by saying,

"A voice! a voice! It was grave, profound, vibrating, while the man did not seem capable of a whisper. However, he had enough strength in him — factitious no doubt — to very nearly make an end of us, as you shall hear directly" (Conrad, 47).

Marlow watches in amazement as one of Kurtz's African concubines argues with him in her native dialect for an hour. Despite Kurtz's overt illness and corrupted nature, Marlow still feels more comfortable and attracted to Kurtz than he does the selfish Manager, who simply wants to advance his position and role in the Company by exposing Kurtz as a maniacal psychopath. Being around Kurtz and the Manager makes Marlow say, "I had never breathed an atmosphere so vile" (Conrad, 49). Overall, meeting Kurtz is a dramatic moment in Marlow's life because he finally gets a chance to gaze into the "heart of darkness" by witnessing Kurtz's corrupted nature and listening to his desperate yet profound voice.

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Why is Marlow fascinated by Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

Marlow could not help but to be fascinated by the image of and the thought of eventually encountering in person the figure of Kurtz. Soon into his journey into the enormous forbidding jungles of Africa in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow begins hearing mentions of this mysterious figure, some references open and approving, others discrete and conspiratorial. Kurtz is spoken of as an up-and-coming figure in the Company, a man utterly devoted to his responsibilities and certain to move up in the corporate ranks. Before embarking into the jungle, Marlow relates a conversation with an accountant, an important figure in the profitable and rapacious ivory trade that lies at the center of Conrad’s narrative. The accountant explains that Mr. Kurtz is “a first-class agent” and “a very remarkable person.” Kurtz, the accountant notes, is the Company’s most productive agent, operating deep inside the continent’s interior under brutal conditions in the interest of accumulating for shipment home “as much ivory as all the others put together.”

The accountant’s references to Kurtz are not in-and-of themselves sufficient to motivate Marlow to seek out the agent at the risk of his own life. Even the suggestion that Kurtz will certainly rise in the corporate hierarchy is not enough to summon within Marlow an obsession with finding Kurtz. As Marlow’s journey progresses, however, the prospect of encountering Kurtz grows increasingly intriguing. The references to and discussions of Kurtz feed Marlow’s determination to meet the mysterious agent. A discussion of Kurtz with a manager at a way-station makes Marlow view Kurtz as a ubiquitous figure, prompting Marlow to think to himself “hang Kurtz.” Increasing suggestions that something bad has or is happening, however, begins to light a fire in Marlow regarding Kurtz that stokes more interest. Not only are the repeated references to Kurtz increasingly intriguing, but the conditions under which indigenous people are forced to labor on behalf of the Company and the natural harshness of the jungle environment in which they work and are physically abused builds as the boat nears Kurtz’s camp.

Marlow is fascinated by Kurtz by journey’s end because he comes to view the agent as a metaphor for all the ugliness he has witnessed. Kurtz’s dying words, “the horror, the horror,” encapsulate the surrealistic environment in which he, Kurtz, has been functioning. The inhumanity of the Company’s enterprise and his own enormous success at fueling that enterprise have taken a serious toll on Kurtz’s psyche, and Marlow has become the inheritor of Kurtz’s legacy. The journey to Kurtz’s camp deep in the Congo is not only physical, but mental, and Marlow’s growing determination to meet Kurtz and to accept the roll of executor of Kurtz’s memories is only complete with the legendary ivory agent’s death.

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Why is Marlow fascinated by Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

As was mentioned in the previous post, Marlow is fascinated with meeting Kurtz, an extremely successful ivory agent, who has traveled deep into the Congo. Marlow hears many conflicting rumors about Kurtz as he travels towards the Inner Station. Various employees of the Company view Kurtz differently. Some admire and appreciate Kurtz's ability to collect ivory, while others are jealous and hope for his death. As Marlow journeys into Africa, he witnesses the corrupt, despicable nature of colonialism. After reading Kurtz's report for The International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, he is intrigued to find out whether or not Kurtz was able to maintain his morals and civility after living so long in the jungle. Kurtz is an enigmatic figure who is at the center of the Company and the African continent. Marlow is interested in meeting Kurtz in hopes of gaining some sort of supreme knowledge from a man with such unique experiences. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he is captivated by his eloquent speech. Marlow connects with Kurtz, who also opposes the Company, and gains valuable insight into the "heart of darkness." 

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Why is Marlow fascinated by Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

When Marlow enters the jungle, he has heard many rumors and stories about Kurtz, who is seen as an almost mythical figure by many. The Accountant seems to worship Kurtz for his production of ivory, while the Station Manager and his uncle speak of Kurtz as though his exploitations are damaging to the Company. Every mention of Kurtz makes Marlow more and more curious, until Marlow is almost desperate to meet with him:

Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together?
[...]
 I was cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz.
(Conrad, Heart of Darkness, eNotes eText)

All the people building Kurtz up gave Marlow certain expectations, and he wants to meet Kurtz to see the truth behind all these disparate and contradictory stories. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, his expectations are so high that for a time he views Kurtz as a seven-foot-tall commanding presence, even though Kurtz is bedridden and invalid. Marlow does not view Kurtz as an opposite figure; instead, Marlow comes to realize that Kurtz is the worst of uninhibited man, released because the jungle has no checks and balances.

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Why does Marlow long to meet Kurtz so badly in the novella Heart of Darkness?

This question is a fairly complex one, and is one to which even Marlowe himself cannot supply a definite answer until the end of the second section of the novella. Only when Marlow fears that Kurtz is dead immediately following the native attack on the steamboat does he realize that he wishes to have "a talk with Kurtz." A careful reading of Marlow's subsequent narrative will reveal that Marlow is looking for either an affirmation of his hopes about mankind or a confirmation regarding his worst fears about humanity.

In other words, Marlow feels that he will meet one of two possible men in Kurtz. The first possibility is that Kurtz turns out to be the "remarkable" humanitarian that many of Marlow's acquaintances in the Company describe him as. If this characterization turns out to be true, humankind in the form of Kurtz is affirmed as a higher order of animal that is able to overcome natural environments, urges, etc. However, the second possibility for Marlow is that Kurtz is a changed man, one who once was the symbol of civilization but who now has turned to baser instincts and uncivilized practices. If this Kurtz turns out to be real, Marlow's fears about human nature are confirmed. Those fears center on Marlow's "suspicion of [the African natives and Europeans living and working in the Congo] not being inhuman."

Regardless of the actual man Kurtz turns out to be, Marlow is driven to meet Kurtz by a personal need to satisfy his own curiosity and clarify all the ambiguity concerning Kurtz that has been mentioned throughout the first two sections of the novel.

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What are Marlow's feelings towards Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

Marlow’s feelings about Kurtz begin with mild interest about the missing Company agent, supposedly the best agent in the Company’s entire territory. He gleans from other people’s opinions of Kurtz that the man is brilliant, hard-working, and respected, but also somehow feared and distrusted. Why this should be is unclear to Marlow, but as he travels further upriver, the general opinion of Kurtz changes from bland admiration of the Company’s golden boy to a stark dichotomy between those who fear the man and those who worship him. Marlow has no contact with Kurtz himself for much of the story, so while his curiosity is piqued by the mystique that surrounds the man, his own feelings for Kurtz are mainly admiration of his intelligence (manifested in the text of Kurtz’s pamphlet to the Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs), and an intense desire to see the man behind the myth.

When Marlow meets Kurtz, he is awed by him. The man is physically imposing, immensely tall, gaunt, completely bald, with a fierce, penetrating gaze and a commanding voice. He exudes a powerful charisma that simultaneously repulses and enthralls Marlow. Marlow is horrified by Kurtz’s depravity, disgusted by his self-important justifications for his crimes, and yet hypnotized by his personality. Marlow explains this by saying:

His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.

Ultimately, Marlow finds Kurtz to be remarkable, as someone who stared into the abyss until the abyss stared back into him. Kurtz dared to do everything that morality and convention forbid people to do. He was monstrous, but his ruthless exploration of the forbidden required a kind of courage that Marlow cannot help but admire.

He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth—the strange commingling of desire and hate . . . he had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot. And perhaps in this is the whole difference; perhaps all wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible. Perhaps! . . . It was an affirmation, a moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominable satisfactions. But it was a victory! That is why I have remained loyal to Kurtz to the last.

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What are Marlow's feelings towards Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

At the beginning of the action in the novella, Marlow, the narrator, is confused about Kurtz and his motives. After he first arrives in Africa, he hears people who work for the ivory company tell a story in which Kurtz returns to his station, though it is bare of food. Marlow thinks of Kurtz: "I did not know the motive. Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake" (page numbers vary by edition). At this point, Marlow believes that Kurtz is benevolent.

As he journeys towards Kurtz's inner station, Marlow finds Kurtz intriguing and puzzling. He comes upon a report Kurtz has written for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. At the end of this report, which is eloquent and altruistic towards the native Africans, Kurtz adds, "Exterminate all the brutes!" Marlow compares this statement to "a flash of lightning in a serene sky." At this point, Marlow is puzzled about why Kurtz would add this postscript to a report in which he has advocated benevolent treatment of African people.

In the end, Marlow knows that Kurtz is flawed and has elevated himself about the native people by pretending to be a deity. In the end, however, Marlow has undying dedication to Kurtz. As he says,

"He had summed up -- he had judged. `The horror!' He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth -- the strange commingling of desire and hate" (page numbers vary by edition).

Marlow remains dedicated to Kurtz because he believes that Kurtz, whose last words were "the horror," understands the truth of what European colonization in Africa is truly like. He finds Kurtz "remarkable" and cannot shake his admiration of him, even though he knows that Kurtz in reality was far from perfect. 

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What are Marlow's feelings towards Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

Marlow's feelings for Kurtz change greatly over the course of the novella. In the beginning Marlow admires and respects Kurtz for his accomplishments. The, as Marlow steams up the Congo and he hears more of how Kurtz has managed to accomplish his feats, he questions his own admiration and respect for the man. Finally, once they are face to face Marlow's respect is replaced by fear for that the man represents and the evil that he displays. In my mind, it is Marlow's description and reflection upon discovering the human heads placed on sticks by Kurtz that represents the moment whatever flickers of respect he holds completely disappear.

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What does Marlow want from Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

As was mentioned in the previous post, Marlow is more fascinated with meeting the man behind so many rumors in order to see how living in the heart of the Congo has affected him. Throughout Marlow's journey to the Congo, he learns that Kurtz is the most successful ivory trader and many selfish individuals wish to see him dead. Marlow is also familiar with Kurtz's earlier goals of bringing the "light" of civilization to the Congo, and he wishes to see if he still maintains his beliefs. Kurtz's enigmatic nature fascinates Marlow, who is utterly disgusted with how other Europeans in the Company conduct themselves. In a way, Marlow is motivated to meet Kurtz in hopes of finding a European who is pure, morally upright, and successful. Upon reaching the Inner Station, Marlow discovers that Kurtz has been utterly corrupted by greed and uses his status to wreak havoc on the surrounding African villages. However, Kurtz does not attempt to hide his depravity and immoral actions like many Europeans associated with the ivory trade. 

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What does Marlow want from Kurtz in Heart of Darkness?

I suppose really Marlow doesn't "want" anything concrete from Kurtz. He associates Kurtz with the irresistable attraction of the un-mapped central parts of Africa, and as he discovers more about Kurtz, he feels an association with him that grows throughout the rest of the novella. Not only are they linked by their common European heritage, but also Marlow becomes fascinated by Kurtz's story and his ideals concerning colonialism.

By the end of the story, however, Marlow has discovered than another link binds them together - the infinite corruptability of mankind, no matter how noble their intentions are. Kurtz's final words ("The horror! The horror!") can be said to represent a judgement on humanity and our ability to be corrupted without the restrictions of society to keep us in check.

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How are Kurtz and Marlow alter egos in Heart of Darkness?

This is a very deep question which I will try to do justice in the space allotted, but just be aware that entire PhD theses have been written on this topic! You are definitely right in suggesting that there is some kind of deep connection between Marlow and Kurtz suggested in the novel.

What is important to realise is that as Marlow penetrates further into the unknown, his capacity for self-control and "inborn strength" are tested. His real trial, however, only takes place when he feels he has been "transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors" which Kurtz seems to inhabit. Kurtz is repeatedly described as a shadow, and when Marlow tries to convey the essence of his experience, he declares "I am trying to account to myself for - for - Mr. Kurtz - for the shade of Mr. Kurtz." Though Kurtz exists as a character in his own right, there is a sense in which he can be viewed as Marlow's shadow or "double". By declaring that Kurtz is "a remarkable man" Marlow was lumped together with him and this identification with the "nightmare" of Kurtz's "choice" leads to his confrontation with him. It accounts for the "moral shock" Marlow receives when he realises that Kurtz has left the steam-boat to join the natives; and for the following statement:

I was anxious to deal with this shadow by myself alone - and to this day I don't know why I was so jealous of sharing with any one the peculiar blackness of that experience.

When Marlow states "I confounded the beat of the drum with the beating of my heart", he shows that, like Kurtz, he has reached the heart of darkness, "the farthest point of navigation." It is no longer with the wilderness outside that Marlow fights, but rather with its effect on Kurtz and the spell it cast over him. "If anyone ever struggled with a soul, I am the man" he says. That Marlow's involvement with Kurtz amounts to a plunge into the depths of the self is confirmed when he explains that Kurtz's soul "had looked within itself, and - gone man. I had - to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself." Whatever Marlow's arguments, he not only succeeds in bringing Kurtz back to the boat, but remains sufficiently detached to judge with precision the extent of his self-deception, the fact that Kurtz still hides "in the magnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness of his heart."

So, whilst it is credible to maintain that Marlow and Kurtz act as doubles in the story, this is only a partial "doubling", for Marlow shows what Kurtz blatantly lacks - self-knowledge regarding his own involvement in the colonial enterprise and imperialism at large.

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