As Marlow’s obsession with the character of Kurtz and his supposed degradation from a highly-civilized, educated, and well-respected gentleman to a savage, godless, brute, furthers, it gradually becomes the main focus of the text.  Conrad encourages his audience to pay close attention to this shift in character and its significance, as it allows the reader to come to a fuller understanding of the environment that engulfs Marlow, Kurtz, and the rest of the characters.

One can assume from the reading that, prior to his arrival and subsequent journey in to the heart of unchartered Africa, Kurtz was the pinnacle of what it meant to be a modern individual.  Well-educated, compassionate, dedicated to his work and improving the world in which he inhabited, Kurtz seemed to be on the path to greatness.

All of this changed as he “penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness”.   Judging by Marlow’s descriptions of the same land that Kurtz travelled, I assume that they were troubled by similar aspects of the environment.  Marlow describes his surroundings as “a thing monstrous and free”, a setting completely opposite of the tamed, urban landscape he and Kurtz were accustomed to.  In addition to this, they are forced to inhabit this land alongside “the prehistoric man” with whom they could not communicate or positively interact with.  As Marlow puts it, they were “cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings”.

This immersion into a world in which all of their control was immediately stripped from them, must have been a severely traumatic experience, especially for Kurtz, who’s former life was one of supposed sophistication and enlightenment.  Here, he was faced with nature in its rawest form and it completely shattered each and every conception about life he held.  It seems that following this, he abandoned his attempts to civilize this setting and chose, rather, to recognize his “kinship with this wild and passionate uproar”.  Instead of reaffirming his once heartfelt beliefs, he chose simply to abandon them and adopt the lifestyle of his surroundings.

Attaining once valuable research and even more valuable resources, such as ivory, held no relevance once Kurtz arrived in the “heart of darkness”.  Instead, he embraced the lifestyle that was presented to him and allowed it to consume him, using it as a means to flesh out all of his primal urges, long buried by his former lifestyle.

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  1. good piece