View Full Version : Heart of Darkness-'The horror,the horror'

04-06-2009, 07:04 PM
'The horror, the horror'. What is it? How does Marlow interpret it? thnx

Wilde woman
04-07-2009, 07:44 PM
It's purposefully left ambiguous. We're not let into Marlow's thoughts. But we can speculate. Perhaps Marlow thinks it's nothing more than Kurtz's madness taking over in his last moments of life. Perhaps he thinks it's Kurtz's damning judgment on the Interior, the corruption of the people around him, his own corruption, etc. We don't know for sure, but if you can find quotes in the book to back your thesis, you should be fine.

Here's a site that analyzes the quote very briefly. Scroll to the bottom to check it out: http://www.shmoop.com/quote/literature/joseph-conrad/heart-of-darkness/fear.html

04-07-2009, 08:24 PM
Yes I agree it's somewhat ambiguous, but I think the ambiguity is in how the reader should take it. As a reader I can see various reasons in why Kurtz says that. But I think to Marlow he interprets it as Kurtz arriving at a moral enlightment. Whether he does or not i'm not sure. But Marlow thinks he does because Marlow says it at one point I think, and Marlow's actions when he returns and speaks to Kurtz's bethrothed would not make sense if he did not think Kurtz had reached a death bed conversion.

04-09-2009, 05:05 PM
Thanks alot, i see what you mean, it does have a sense of ambiguousness. Any other interpretations of the quote are much appreciated. Please post them thnx

05-24-2009, 01:17 PM
, in general.

05-24-2009, 01:21 PM
I think that Conrad wanted each reader to interpret for himself/herself. I interpret it as Kurtz reflecting on his own savagery, in particular, and on the complete and utter savagery of colonial British savagery, in general.

12-29-2011, 03:20 PM
To understand what Kurtz meant by ‘The Horror, the Horror’ begs an understanding of horror itself.
To understand horror one should start with fear
Fear is the human primal reaction to that which we do not understand
Which leads to our response - If you do not understand it – kill it!
Horror is to confront that which you do not understand and it remains unrecognizable
Kurtz came from the elite of the most developed of humanity.
By very definition not a natural being and perhaps best defined as an abomination in the context of the natural world.
Nature is chaos – speed it up and everything eats everything else
Man’s world is at its best defined as controlled and orderly
Man’s reaction to Nature is manifest early on in the book with shells being fired from a boat into the jungle with no real discernable target
If you don’t understand it – kill it
Kurtz went native in the most primal of places and in doing so became a more natural being
From this perspective he saw human kind and his reaction was fear
Reverting back to his more human nature of control at the end and viewing his more natural self his reaction was horror
He was confronted by that which he did not understand and did not recognize it even though it was his visceral self
‘The Horror, The Horror’

When Kurtz says ‘We must kill them’ he starts with pigs and cows – these are abominations created by humans and therefore not natural beings
His dream (and nightmare) of the snail and the razor – again the natural and that which is an abomination on the planet
The (dream and) nightmare for Kurtz as a human is that the snail survived.
Kurtz seemed obsessed with lies and therefore by context the truth.
And yet what is the truth
Truth resonates at a certain frequency - pay attention and we hear it - the longer we hear it the louder it gets.
Eventually it becomes a roar
Sort and discern the oncoming roar - or turn away.
Continue on driven to what can only be described as a form of insanity.

Those that survive are free to participate in an environment distinctly clear and alien.
Kurtz being terminal was unable to survive the truth.

Remember Apocalypse Now and stay safe -
‘Don’t get out of the boat’

Bob Lathigee Vancouver Canada

06-16-2012, 01:49 PM
I think that Conrad wanted each reader to interpret for himself/herself. I interpret it as Kurtz reflecting on his own savagery, in particular, and on the complete and utter savagery of colonial British savagery, in general.

The Congo was a Belgian colony. Actually I think it may have been the Belgian king's own personal possession.

12-21-2012, 09:00 PM
Horror is to face the incomprehensible with no frame of reference in which to place it
To recoil with no grasp of the encounter.
It is to come face to face with Chaos/evil/nature - as a being of order and control.
What is evil then
Is it at the other end of the continuum from good
Then what is good – that which is ordered and controllable
If that be so then the other end of the continuum is chaos
But chaos is the natural order of things
Speed up nature and everything eats everything else
Chaos – beyond these few deminsions in which we grow, live, perceive - there are many more
We sense them and recoil
Chaos will tear us asunder
Humans have managed to blow out bubbles of order and control and live within them
So if we are beings of order and control and chaos (the natural order of things) is at the other end of the continuum then we are not natural beings living natural lives
Abomination – like our cattle and eggs and KFC
KFC – Horror – Abominations brought to life in horror, living in horror, with a horror of a death
Have we become the very thing that we have no grasp of?
Of course we have
The Horror the Horror
Then we have become evil/chaos and natural beings
Do we now recoil from good

03-27-2015, 04:51 PM
"The horror, the horror" is left up to the reader to determine its meaning. Kurtz could be reflecting on his past actions, seeing what the world may be headed toward, the cruelty of the natives, etc. Marlow seems to interpret Kurtz's last words as a reflection of his actions in Africa. He seems to be appalled by his greedy actions of trying and accomplishing his goal of obtaining as much ivory as possible in addition to gaining power.

01-30-2017, 07:30 PM
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Alvin Pepler
08-25-2017, 03:33 PM
I tend to see this line as Kertz's response to living a life of unreflection, greed, and going along with the ideology of the day. I would argue that no reasonable person, nor does Marlowe, see life as "Horror"-filled. We should ask, What does make Kurtz's life horrible? How did he live that made it this way?