Heart of Darkness – Pages 68-75


Summary


The events that take place in pages 68 to the end of the novel revolve around Kurtz’s death. This section of Heart of Darkness opens with the steamer breaking down. The delay disheartens Kurtz’s confidence to return to his Intended. Marlow is slowly becoming ill and Kurtz becomes worried that the manager will gain control. In response, Kurtz decides to give Marlow a bundle of papers for safekeeping. Kurtz’s condition worsens as time progresses.


A few evenings later Kurtz explains to Marlow that he is waiting for death. As Marlow approaches, Kurtz seems to be receiving a profound vision and he cries out “The horror! The horror!” Marlow then flees not wanting to view Kurtz’s death and joins the manager in the dining hall, which is suddenly overrun by flies. A moment later, a servant comes in to tell them that: “Mistah Kurtz – he dead.”


The pilgrims bury Kurtz the next day. Marlow gives in to his illness and nearly dies himself. Marlow remembers little about the time of his illness and how he recovered. Once he had recovered sufficiently, he leaves Africa and returns to Brussels. His aunt nurses him back to full health, but his disorder is more emotional then physical. The manager demands the papers that Kurtz entrusted to Marlow. Marlow gives him various pamphlets but keeps the private letters and a picture of Kurtz’s Intended.


Marlow visits the Intended without a clear reason for visiting. Kurtz’s memory comes flooding back to Marlow as he stands on her doorstep. The Intended embraces and welcomes him. He finds the Intended still in mourning, though it has been over a year since Kurtz’s death. Marlow gives her the package and she asks if he knew Kurtz well. He replies that he knew him “as well as it is possible for one man to know another.”


Marlow’s presence fulfills her need for a sympathetic ear and she continually praises Kurtz. Her sentimentality begins to anger Marlow, but he holds back his annoyance until it gives way to pity. The Intended says that she will mourn Kurtz forever, and asks Marlow to repeat his last words to give her something upon which to uphold her feelings for Kurtz. Marlow lies and tells her that Kurtz’s last word was her name. She responds that she was certain that this was the case. Marlow ends his story here, and the narrator looks off into the dark sky, which makes the waterway seem “to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”


Analysis





Kurtz’s final words “The horror! The horror!” seems to be a judgment of the way his life was lived. Kurtz was a unique victim of civilization, where instead of helping the people in the Congo; the heart of darkness manipulated him and allowed him to be turned into a man deified by the natives and someone who ruled his station through cruelty and fear.


These final words also seem to be a warning to Marlow, to ensure that he would not fall into the same temptations of the plundering of the Congo.


“The horror! The horror!” marks the beginning of Kurtz’s death. Then flies, which symbolize slow and painful decay swarm the ship as if marking Kurtz’s actual passing. The flies represent his death as slow and drawn out; as if his environment was slowly wearing him away (the contrast to this is a sudden and dramatic death). His death is bluntly marked by the servant’s rough words “Mistah Kurtz-he dead”. This is ironically contrasted by the eloquent way Kurtz delivered his dying words to Marlow on his deathbed.


The death of Kurtz is almost followed by the death of Marlow. Although Kurtz and Marlow’s affliction is blamed on their environment, it seems to be the sinister result of the highly infectious greed and plunderage brought on by extended periods in the Congo. Marlow recovers from his illness, having resisted the temptation of Kurtz to both free society and also rule it with an iron fist.


Now back in Brussels, Marlow’s aunt nurses him back to health, recovering more from an emotional disorder rather than a physical. Marlow goes to visit Kurtz’s Intended, unsure of the purpose of his visit. The Intended asks what