Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Part III, Section 1 Analysis (pages 123-134)

The Russian stands out as a symbol, or archetype, of The Fool. He even reminds Marlow of a harlequin because of the way he's dressed. Consider the following passage: " ' "I went a little farther," [the Russian] said, "then still a little farther—till I had gone so far that I don't know how I'll ever get back" ' " (123). The Fool archetype is generally portrayed at the edge of some great height, about to plummet to disaster—very similar to what the Russian here describes.

The Russian also gives further insight into the mind of Kurtz, saying Kurtz mesmerized him with long diatribes about " 'Everything! Everything! ... Of love, too' " (124). Marlow had previously said everything was in the mind of man, and according to the Russian, Kurtz had gained access to all that knowledge. Again, the theme of knowledge at a cost appears when Marlow describes the woods being "unmoved" like "the door of a closed prison" and infers they contain "hidden knowledge" (126).

Kurtz is clearly an important character, and volumes could be written about him, but a few of the more pronounced elements appear in this part. For one, Kurtz previously wrote about natives accepting white men as gods. The Russian said that Kurtz came to the natives "with thunder and lightning" (125), but Marlow calls Kurtz's guns as they are brought down with Kurtz on the stretcher "the thunderbolts of that pitiful Jupiter" (131). Part of the knowledge that Kurtz gains, which " 'came to him at last—only at the very last' " (128), is that he is lacking and is indeed not divine at all. Conrad's writing never allows the reader to make absolute judgments about anything, and because of this, is an enduring story. This passage also highlights the truth behind the high ideals of Imperialism, which could also be labeled "pitiful". It is interesting that Conrad makes references to the bricklayer, the manager, and Kurtz all being either made up of nothing or being hollow, and these characters most typify the Imperialist ideals.

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