Contrasting Marlow and Kurtz and the Theme of Evil In "Heart of Darkness"


It can be said that a certain degree of darkness lies within every person,
but this darkness will not surface unless given the correct environment. The
darkness, however, can emerge and ultimately destroy the person if not checked
by reason. If one\'s inner darkness does surface, the victim then is given the
opportunity to reach a point in personal growth, and to gain a sense of self-
knowledge from it. That is, when one\'s darkness appears, one must learn from
this experience how he or she can prevent similar results from occurring in the
future. It is ultimately through self-knowledge that we gain the power to
defeat our inner darkness, and all of its elements. Just as everyone has the
potential for evil within themselves, we too have the potential for true
goodness. In many literary works the author attempts to exemplify the evil
which lies within by showing many characters which have been, or are being
overcome by their inner darkness. In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph
Conrad we see how Marlow\'s journey into his ultimate evil, into his inner self,
can be a positive experience. By contrasting Marlow with Kurtz, who represents
the absolute evil, we can see the two products of an inner evil which has
emerged. Marlow, who defeats his evil, and gains self-knowledge, and Kurtz, who
is defeated by his darkness and falls prey to its wrath. In William Golding\'s
Lord of the Flies the author points out how easily people can be over taken by
the darkness, how the potential for good can be destroyed by the evil, but
ideally how good will triumph. Through an examination of these two works we can
see how the darkness within, given the correct environment will surface. The
circumstances which eventually cause the appearance of the inner darkness in
these two novels stems from the lack of civility, the true test, or journey
which every life contains, and finally the product of evil which lies in all of
us, either through acts of commission or omission.

When people lack the aspect of civility in their lives they too will lack
the restraints and barriers it has on one\'s inner evil. Civility, in essence,
provides the basic structure for good. Through laws, structure, and general
order, goodness then, for the most part will be the end product. Therefore a
lack of civility would result in a lack of order, morals, and laws, leaving
chaos to over power. The desolate island in The Lord of the Flies represents a
lack of civility. Without parents, law makers, and guardians the darkness which
surfaces is inevitable. Piggy said in a feared state upon this realization:
"This is an island? Well I think this is an island! That\'s a reef out in the
sea. That means we are all alone! Perhaps there aren\'t any grownups anywhere"
(Golding 4). It is clear that the civilization of the modern world is
unavailable on the island. Although Ralph, who represented the aspect of order,
attempts to reach a point of civility, unfortunately was unsuccessful. He said
in his struggle: "We\'ve got to have rules and obey them. After all we\'re not
savages. We\'re English, and the English are the best at everything" (Golding
25). Ironically the very group he was talking to broke order and formed the
savage group known as the \'hunters\'. Similarly Piggy too represents civility.
He incorporates the conch which to aids in the order of the island. He is very
fearful of the lack of civility and scared by the hunters. He feels that
civility and order, although the ideal route, was going to be crushed, and with
it him: "We can\'t do this, the savages, they would crush us" (Golding 54). It
is quite obvious how the potential evil in a group of young boys unavoidably
arises due to the lack of restraint and order. When the darkness surfaces Jack
and his group of hunters gain no self-knowledge, and therefore can not reprieve
themselves nor the evil which takes over.

A strong parallel can be drawn between the island in Lord of the Flies and
The Congo in The Heart of Darkness. The Congo in is similarly used to represent
the absence of restraint and order. The effect which is used exemplifies a lack
of civility, which in turn provides the opportunity for the emergence of
darkness. At the beginning of the novel Marlow begins his descent into the
Congo, which presents a dark image of death and suffering.

It was