Conrad Joseph’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ brings the experiences of imperialism into light through the eyes of Marlow and Kurtz. Throughout the plot, these characters are used to showcase the events that took place in the colonial territories where imperialists’ activities were taking place. As a result, we learn of the unique views shared by Marlow and Kuntz as each strives to justify what they think is the most appropriate approach to colonialism. In this regard, Marlow becomes extremely obsessed with Kurtz because he believes Kurtz’s approach to colonialism is undermining his philosophical views; hence, he attempts to save Kurtz with an aim of covering up the tracks of inhumanity dotting his life and better understanding the contradictions in his image of the people.
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Marlow pursues Kurtz in order to understand his blunt, inhuman, and savage deeds as a backdrop to enhance his unique approach to the idea of imperialism and slavery. Even before Marlow takes on Kurtz, Fresleven becomes his first culprit whom he uses to expose the contradictions among colonial masters in the class of Kurtz, who are classified as inhuman (Conrad, 2009). He objects “Oh, it didn’t surprise me in the least to hear this, and at the same time to be told that Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs” (p.19). Thus, this prepares the reader for the actual reception of Kurtz, whom he deems to be undermining the objectives behind imperialism.
Marlow embodies himself as the messiah of bad colonial practices used by Kurtz, but he is unwilling to become one of the Kurtz’ followers. In his mind, he had created an image of someone living a lonely lifestyle with little influence on the people, a savage. Thus, when news came to the receiving station that one of the critical suppliers of their merchandise, Mr. Kurtz, was sick, Marlow felt weary and irritated by the information to the point of wishing Kurtz could be subjected to the hangman’s noose (Conrad, 2009). However, as he journeys through the wilderness and rivers to meet Kurtz, he is astounded by the fact that he is highly regarded as one of the chosen few. Kurtz was classified as the best agent, a man with exceptional traits, and of great importance to the company (Conrad, 2009). This view creates a feeling of mystery around Kurtz. He remarks “all this talk seemed to me so futile” (Conrad, 2009, p.59). Thus, being the only one with a different view, he distances his views from those expressed by members of the crew.
Marlow attempts to save Kurtz with an aim of freeing him from his obsession by enabling him realize his other competencies such as eloquence, which Marlow strongly envied. He feels that Kurtz has lost the fight and become a savage; hence, he needs to come back to life and redeem himself. He objects “When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness” (Conrad, 2009, p.135). The association of Kurtz with ivory made Marlow belittle him more because this was a valuable trade item and its supplier was being praised like a small god. Marlow points out “the word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it” (Conrad, 2009, p.60). In essence, Marlow wants to rescue Kurtz from falling under the calls of his followers whose only concern seems to be the monetary gain from ivory. He interjects “I don’t like work – no man does – but I like what is in the work, - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality – for yourself, not for others – what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means” (Conrad, 2009, p.77).
Marlow chose Kurtz over other colonials because of the unique gifts he possessed, among them being the strong sense of speech, admirable expression and bewildering nature, which made him gain exceptional favor and admiration (Conrad, 2009). In addition, of all the colonials, Kurtz was the only one who had by then managed to penetrate the savage nature of the indigenous people and even became a force to reckon with among them. In Mr. Kurtz’s world everything belonged to him, from the station and the river to the ivory (Conrad, 2009). This sense of ownership also made Kurtz to stand out from the other colonials whose only concentration was on the aspects of trade. No wonder, they could no longer get rivet supplies as one member on the crew contends. Therefore, Marlow sought to find out how Kurtz had alienated himself from the instructions of the authorities and instead established a new platform of power where he had immense influence, more than his masters.
Kurtz’s pursuit is also driven by the fact that they share certain traits between themselves, which makes them to stand out as part of Europe’s imperial mission. Both Kurtz and Marlow shared a common association with the administration of Europe, and they equally attracted influence upon themselves one they set foot in the imperial colonies. Additionally, they both have a desire to make people appreciate their innate views and concerns about what they believe in. That is why Marlow could not understand how Kurtz got the tribe to follow him consequently making them to adore him and express extreme adoration (Conrad, 2009). Silently, he wants the members of the crew to also acknowledge the wealth and influence he can bring by making them to appreciate the morals guiding nature and the human society.