Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Part III, Section 3 Analysis (pages 145-155)
It is Marlow's own struggle with death that allows him to fully appreciate Kurtz. His journey into the heart of darkness, though he did not travel as far as Kurtz, grants him the knowledge of truth, but because he does not embrace the darkness as did Kurtz, he is not consumed by it. Marlow, changed by his understanding, can barely tolerate the presence of unenlightened people, and has difficulty restraining himself from laughing in their faces (146). It is interesting to note that Kurtz suffered a severe lack of restraint.
The end of the novella serves to drive home the theme of terrible understanding. Conrad repeatedly uses images of death and darkness to contrast images of light associated with Kurtz's Intended. Marlow attempts to keep this " 'heart of a conquering darkness' " (149) from the Intended, and he does this by lying to her. Remember that Marlow believes that women cannot handle truths men accept daily, so he is certain the truth about Kurtz would shatter her.
When Marlow ends his tale, the narrator again describes his pose as that of "a meditating Buddha" (155). The repeated phrase lends weight to the idea that Marlow has been exposed to a greater amount of truth than most and has been changed because of it. The more a phrase or word is repeated in a story, the more weight its concepts carry, and Conrad uses this device throughout the work. Conrad ends this novel on a dark note indeed, constructing the atmosphere with his choice of words, leaving one feeling as if he has imparted some of the unsettling truth about mankind from the very "heart of darkness".
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