More Heart of Darkness

Now we have finished reading the text, you may wish to do some reading, and listening, about it, to help you refelect on your own thoughts and responses.

I will be alternating my marking today with uploading links to some resources on the pre-1914 prose page.

Lots of questions are of course raised by the final pages of the book. Perhaps you could continue our discussions by raising some of those questions for yourself, here, and seeing what responses you get. Perhaps I could get the ball rolling by asking what you think of Mr Kurtz’s last words: “The horror! The horror!” And why does Conrad have Marlow lie to Kurtz’s ‘Intended’ that the last thing he said was her name?

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6 Responses to More Heart of Darkness

  1. Philippa Kennedy says:

    Well, perhaps Marlow wasn’t lying – he may have indeed thought that the Intended was a horror? I found her dreadfully self-obsessed when we “met” her as she was always talking about how much she was going to miss him as if no-one else’s feelings mattered at all. So, maybe Marlow was calling the woman a “horror”.

  2. Mr Heald says:

    I really didn’t see that one coming, Philippa! I don’t think that would ever have occurred to me. I suppose it is possible that we could even go so far as to suggest that Kurtz’s motivation for voyaging into the heart of Africa might have been to escape his Intended. It wouldn’t be the first time, both in reality and fiction, that someone had run away after getting cold-feet about an impending marriage.

    On the other hand, do you think that is an interpretation that can be satisfactorily integrated with the rest of the work?

    Actually, the more I think about it, the more I can see ways of making it fit: but only as a kind of elaborate joke, which doesn’t seem to me a very satisfying or plausible reading. And in any case, Marlow says: “But I couldn’t. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark — too dark altogether…”

    Nevertheless, linking Kurtz’s last words “The horror” with the Intended as a kind of ironic connection that he didn’t intend, but that we nevertheless make as readers, does seem reasonable, original, and potentially very effective (especially if you take a certain kind of feminist perspective that might see the book as revealing a fear of, and marginalisation of, women).

  3. Jenny says:

    I feel that my interpretation on this matter is very basic, but to me seems the most plausible reason for Marlow not telling Kurtz’s Intended that his last words were “The horror! The horror!”

    To me, it seems that when Marlow returns from his voyage, he sees how the people populating the “sepulchral city” before he left were still the same after his return, “hurrying” and “dream(ing) their insignificant and silly dreams” even after Marlow himself had experienced something so life changing. We also see how he “had no particular desire to enlighten them” about his discoveries in the “Heart of Darkness”.

    Perhaps by not telling Kurtz’s Intended what his real last words were, Marlow is attempting to prolong the time taken to discover what he discovered as it has caused him so much trouble; it suggests that Marlow believes that it is better for one man to suffer, than to let humanity fall to pieces. Furthermore, Marlow discusses how the normal people “could not possibly know the things I knew” and excuses lying about Kurtz’s last words by saying that “I could not tell her. It would have been too dark–too dark altogether. . . .”

    As I said before, my views on this subject are very basic and very obvious!! I would be interested to see other people’s interpretations.

  4. Luke says:

    I sort of agree with Jenny on the subject, where he would not have wanted to tell her the words “the horror, the horror”.
    Though it may seem as if we have delved beyond the simple thought that he wanted to make her feel better, perhaps he did in some way or another, as it was not known until Marlow’s meeting with her if Kurtz’s intended ever existed outside his ill mind.
    Though written in such a way as to make “the horror, the horror” so striking, perhaps it meant nothing at all to Marlow himself which is why it was never told to her. Furthermore, although not explicitly mentioned in the novel, Kurtz may have even seen “hell” as he uttered his last words. It would support the “too dark-too dark altogether” quotation and the fact that he was seen as a god to the primative and uncivilized locals which were to some extent incinuated as worshippers of something other than a god. Kurtz could have seen hell or the devil because of his criminal actions, it was said that he “raided the country”.

  5. Mr Heald says:

    Good comments, here. Don’t be afraid of being ‘basic and obvious’: that’s always the best starting point, though in fact both of you have developed some quite sophisticated ideas, too.

    I’m particularly intrigued by the idea that “Marlow believes that it is better for one man to suffer, than to let humanity fall to pieces.” Any elaboration on that?

    And what sort of “hell” might Kurtz have seen?

  6. Philippa Kennedy says:

    Well, biblically, Hell is a place of horrors – with “the grinding of teeth and gnashing of bones” and is a place of eternal torture. This may have been the horrors that Kurtz (and Luke) have been reffering to.

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