English 170: The Mystery of Kurtz

September 6, 2010

Kurtz is the man at the centre of Heart Of Darkness, envied and revered for his achievements by the Europeans and Africans alike.  However, when Marlow meets him in the story he is just a dying man who wound up having grand rumors attached to him.  Kurtz is seen by the Europeans as a failure of their culture, because he is living amongst the African natives, but they see his ivory raids as highly successful.  Conversely the natives view him as a god and fear his power.  There is no true Kurtz in the book, only the projections of innuendo on a cunning man.  Anyone struggling with the idea of what Kurtz is like knows the feelings that drove Kurtz to become the madman that he is.  Kurtz has broken free of social norms and framework, becoming self-sufficient and adhering to no judge or power above his own.  Without working inside the system, he is not only the god of the natives but in a sense his own god.  He cannot be judged by anyone else’s standards but his own, which is what makes him dangerous.  Kurtz is not evil, but his rejection of boundaries and behaviors etched into European society pose a threat to himself and those around him.

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