Heart of Darkness Essential Quotes by Character: Kurtz
by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Heart of Darkness Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Essential Quotes by Character: Kurtz

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

One day he remarked, without lifting his head, "In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz." On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down his pen, "He is a very remarkable person." Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading-post, a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at "the very bottom of there. Sends in as much ivory as all the other put together....”


Marlow has come to the Congo to recover the body of a Company captain, Fresleven, who was killed in an argument over two black hens. At the Outer Station, Marlow meets the Company’s chief accountant, who is impeccably dressed and keeps the accounts in immaculate order. While Marlow is waiting to journey further up the river, he visits the accountant, who tells him about Mr. Kurtz. Kurtz is an agent at the Inner Station and most likely the best agent in the Company. It is assumed that he will rise far in business, so great is his promise. Working at a trading post, Kurtz ships out more ivory than all the other agents combined, thus becoming an invaluable financial asset. The accountant, who epitomizes order and civilization in the midst of the chaos of the jungle, elevates Kurtz to a god-like status, one in whom all the hopes of colonialism and civilization reside.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 2

...You should have heard him say, "My ivory." Oh, yes, I heard him. "My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—" everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible—it was not good for one either—trying to imagine it. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land—I mean literally. You can’t understand.


Marlow continues the tale of his travels up the river, occasionally stopping to ponder on the significance of the journey and of the man who was Kurtz. He recalls that Kurtz, in the delirium preceding his death, called out to those things that meant the most to him, things that were “his”—his Intended (fiancée), his ivory, his station, his river. It all belonged to him: he was the god of all he surveyed. Yet Marlow points out that Kurtz himself belonged to the darkness, the evil, that he found in Africa. Kurtz had been absorbed into the heart of darkness. Marlow reflects that this is impossible to fully comprehend for those who have not traveled into such dark regions.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 3

...Soul! If anybody ever struggled with a soul, I am the man. And I wasn't arguing with a lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear—concentrated, it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yet clear; and therein was my only chance—barring, of course, the killing him there and then, which wasn't so good, on account of unavoidable noise. But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had—for my sins, I suppose—to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it—I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself. I kept my head pretty well; but when I had him at last stretched on the couch, I wiped my forehead, while my legs shook under me as though I had carried half a ton on my back down that hill. And yet I had only supported him, his bony arm clasped round my...

(The entire section is 1,337 words.)