What is Kurtz doing in the Congo?
Kurtz goes to the Congo as an emissary for the Company, a Belgian operation that has set up stations along the Congo River to facilitate the export of ivory. Kurtz runs the innermost station, and he proves to be the Company’s most efficient exporter. Kurtz also develops an influential philosophy about how to civilize the African people, as indicated by the pamphlet he wrote on the subject at the invitation of the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs.
Marlow suggests that the loneliness and unfamiliarity of the African environment induces Kurtz’s madness, and that his mind weakens the deeper he travels into the “heart of darkness.” As Marlow describes it: “Being alone in the wilderness...[his soul] had gone mad.” Another possibility for Kurtz’s madness is that Kurtz’s greed drives him crazy. After Kurtz discovers the influence he has over the indigenous people, his insatiable lust for power takes him over the edge. In the Congolese jungle, Kurtz is not held accountable to anyone, and this sort of unrestrained power is more than one man can bear.
What does Kurtz talk to Marlow about on the boat?
Although Marlow doesn’t fully comprehend Kurtz’s fragmented speech, Kurtz essentially discusses his work and legacy with Marlow—fiancé, station, career, and portions of articles he once wrote for newspapers. He also describes his childish fantasies of wealth and fame, including the desire for kings to greet him at the railway station upon his return. Before his condition worsens, Kurtz gives Marlow a bundle of private papers for safekeeping, in a last-ditch attempt at preserving his legacy.
What do Kurtz’s last words mean?
Kurtz’s last words—“The horror! The horror!”—can be interpreted in various ways. Firstly, and most simply, they could be a response to a fever dream as Kurtz’s body and mind disintegrate. More likely, these words reflect Kurtz’s failure to achieve his many lofty goals and fulfill his destiny, and he cannot help but utter in despair as the emptiness of his own life envelopes him. These final words could also broadly symbolize the horror of Belgian (and European) colonialism. For Marlow’s part, he interprets the exclamation as Kurtz’s response to his impending death. Each of these meanings coexist uneasily in Kurtz’s last words.
Why does Marlow lie to Kurtz’s Intended?
Marlow lies to Kurtz’s Intended to spare her the painful reality of her fiancé’s descent into madness and evil. The Intended has a naïve, unshakeable faith in Kurtz. Marlow refers to this faith as a “great and saving illusion that shone with an unearthly glow in the darkness.” The darkness described here represents the truth about how Kurtz was entirely corrupted by the power he wielded in the Congo. Marlow lies that the last word Kurtz uttered was his fiancée’s name because “it would have been too dark” to tell her that Kurtz last spoke of pure and desolate horror.