“I was within a hair’s-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. . . . He had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man.”
At the beginning of the final section of Part 3, Marlow has just recovered from his near-fatal illness. His “nothing to say” is not reflective of a lack of substance but rather of his realization that anything he might have to say would be so ambiguous and so profound as to be impossible to put into words. Kurtz, on the other hand, is “remarkable” for his ability to cut through ambiguity, to create a definite “something.” Paradoxically, though, the final formulation of that “something” is so vague as to approach “nothing”: “ ‘The horror!’ ” could be almost anything. However, perhaps Kurtz is most fascinating to Marlow because he has had the courage to judge, to deny ambiguity. Marlow is aware of Kurtz’s intelligence and the man’s appreciation of paradox, so he also knows that Kurtz’s rabid systematization of the world around him has been an act and a lie. Yet Kurtz, on the strength of his hubris and his charisma, has created out of himself a way of organizing the world that contradicts generally accepted social models. Most important, he has created an impressive legacy: Marlow will ponder Kurtz’s words (“ ‘The horror!’ ”) and Kurtz’s memory for the rest of his life. By turning himself into an enigma, Kurtz has done the ultimate: he has ensured his own immortality.