View Full Version : Kurtz vs. Marlowe - Sanity

Land Outcast
10-10-2005, 11:40 AM
Hello all this forum's members,

My first post is a request for some brainstorming, fishing for ideas to develop in an essay based in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
The subject will be a comparisson between Marlowe and Kurtz, so as to settle that Marlowe(& Modern Society) are "crazy"(a better term'd be insane), and Kurtz is the real sane one.
I'm planning on supporting it with a Nietzche's perspective of morals.
(for those who don't know: Society considers good&evil, nature good&bad. Evil is that which oposes social conventions and laws, bad is weakness).

Thanks, I know they are in place.

Titus Conqueror
10-18-2005, 01:18 AM
I wrote a poem about that just this week for english class... Marlow (AKA Conrad) is definitely the crazy one. I'll send it to you if you want... It's actually not exactly the same as you said, but hey, it might be what you're looking for.

PS Sorry I didn't just post it... I'm a little protective of my work.

10-18-2005, 07:39 AM
'definitely the crazy one'? If anything, Kurtz is the representative of modern society - the modern imperialist colonialists of Conrad's day who treated native Africans as chaff. His scrawled note 'Exterminate all the brutes' is a clear statement of this position. Conrad was explicitly opposed to the atrocities committed in the name of these interests and based Kurtz on certain real life colonialist slave masters, particularly Belgian ones, who did things like decorate their gardens with skulls. Your reading condones this kind of behavior and thereby plays into the hands of those who see the book as racist.
For more on this, I can't recommend Sven Lindqvist's 'Exterminate all the Brutes' highly enough. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1565843592/qid=1129635381/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-5474882-9129535?v=glance&s=books

10-30-2005, 12:08 PM
Talking about sanity in this case is very discutable.
You can't say that Kurtz is definitly insane, due to his behaviour in a change conditions - without any touch of civilisation, living among savages in a deep heart of Africa.. It just shows that it take so little to feel as you are God! Is that insane? Or it shows our flaw of which are we not aware while dealing with daily activities?

10-30-2005, 12:23 PM
“Heart of Darkness” is more than a commentary on Imperialism and racism. It's a commentary on the human mind and on the frailty of human resolve, the insufficiency of morals that dwindle into nothing when faced greed and with the darkness that lingers outside of society. It is through the remarkable character of Mr. Kurtz, and that of Marlow, the narrator, that this is shown. In the novel, Marlow says that Mr. Kurtz is his "choice of nightmares." On the Congo Marlow meets two types of (white) people. The first type of person being those like the Chief Manager and the brick-maker, who commit atrocities without regret, only because of the money they will earn. They are people who are nicely dressed on the outside but are empty on the inside. These people hate Mr. Kurtz because he collects the most ivory and is therefore (at least to the people back in Europe) the most successful and the most likely to be promoted. His "unsound" methods are also cause for worry—not because of the bestiality they inflict upon the natives, but because they could start rather detrimental rumors that would ruin the company's reputation back in Europe. (After all, these people are supposed to be a “sort of apostle,” bringing enlightenment to the heathens.) Then there is Mr. Kurtz, who, without the stabilizing presence neighbors and society has slipped into ways of violence and savagery that are not acceptable to his own people and upbringing, assuming the status of a sort of demi-god among the Congolese. Both types of men are equally empty of moral. Without society to watch over their shoulders they both commit horrifying atrocities. The crimes of both are equally ugly, whether it is the casually cruel treatment and dehumanization that the chain gang, pointlessly blasting away at the hill, fall victim to or the brutal savagery of displaying decapitated heads on sticks outside your window. Marlow sees the fate that awaits the men who enter the heart of darkness, or the unknown depths of the human mind, is a choice between the primitive barbarity of Mr. Kurtz and the casual brutality and dehumanization practiced by the other people at the station. Although Marlow realizes that he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, he chooses the catastrophe of Mr. Kurtz’s character as the lesser of two evils, not because his sanity is questionable. To Marlow, Mr. Kurtz is not so much an acquaintance or a memory as he is "a voice," Marlow's own choice of nightmares.