Dark Soul of Man Exposed in Heart of Darkness


Conrad's setting of a "night journey" into the Congo becomes an appropriate metaphor. This "Heart of Darkness" that Marlow penetrates of the heart of darkness contained in every man. The insights gained by Marlow into the condition of the human heart are the same insights gained by a careful, thoughtful reader. As Marlow makes his way to Kurtz's camp and his knowledge of this savage land is deepened, so is our understanding of the inherent darkness within every man. The discovery is this: In our deepest nature, all men are savage.


The name Kurtz, which is German for short, has symbolic meaning. The physical shortness in Kurtz implies a shortness of character and spirit. His shortfalls are made apparent as Marlow learned more about him, "Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts." Our enlightenment into the corruption of men's souls eventually becomes complete when Marlow meets Kurtz and finds out what Kurtz has really become, one with the land, devolved to a primitive state.


Marlow and Kurtz could be considered as two conditions of human existence, Kurtz representing what Man could become if left to his own intrinsic devices outside protective society. Marlow, then, representing a pure untainted civilized soul who has not been drawn to savagery by a dark, alienated jungle. According to Conrad, the will to give into the uncivilized man does not just reside Kurtz alone. Every man has inside himself a heart of darkness. This heart is drowned in a bath of light shed by the advent of civilization. No man is an island, and no man can live on an island without becoming a brutal savage. Inside his heart lies the raw evil of untamed lifestyles.