The main theme of the novel Heart of Darkness is the darkness of the human nature and its destructive influence on human beings. This research paper aims to analyze the character and personal downfall of Kurtz and use him as an example for the darkness of the human nature. It will show how easily a man can experience bad fate; Kurtz was an ambitious man full of hope who came to Africa in search for wealth and fortune and ended up going insane and dying. Kurtz is an agent of the Trade Company, in fact, one of the best agents.
He works for them in Africa in an ivory country, collecting ivory, and he has the ability to collect a lot more ivory than any other man. He is an ambitious, charismatic person willing to do anything that is needed to achieve greatness. Although Kurtz is the main character of the story, most of the things we learn about him come indirectly to us; there are always some people who tell stories about him. His greatest desire is the one for gaining a fortune through ivory and that desire led him to Africa.
But he did not do everything on his own will, he was a representative of the European colonizers, and he only did what they wanted him to do. Just to give an example, when he enslaved the natives and even slaughtered them at the Inner Station, the Trade Company did not do anything about that, they did not stop or accuse him. He was only praised for his talented capacity of collecting ivory. Kurtz was of the belief that he could achieve everything as he wished as long as he tried hard. He was also a very greedy person, as were all of the colonizers; it was a common characteristic for them.
That way, he shows a great desire for fame, power and wealth. Kurtz had absolute power at the Inner Station; he had the ability to get everything and everyone under his control. Kurtz made clear statements what kind of men he wanted to work for him, he did not want weak men, or men “of that sort”, he immediately sent them away: “‘Yes, ‘answered the manager; ‘he sent his assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms: “Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don’t bother sending more of that sort. I had rather be alone than have the kind of men you can dispose of with me“ (Chapter 2, 33).
He was as well really cruel, and he ruled the place with the use of his cruelty. The heads of the natives who offended him were standing outside his windows and they only proved Kurtz’s cruelty. He proved his greediness and cruelty once again when he threatened to shoot the Russian if he refused to give him his ivory: “He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country, because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased“ (Chapter 3, 56).
Kurtz was a pretty normal, somewhat ambitious person who got in touch with the wilderness of Africa and fell prey to it. He believes that he must approach the natives as a god, ant that only this way he can survive in the wilderness and lead the people to civilization. But his obsession for power and wealth and his greediness did not let him last long in the jungle as the wilderness pretty soon took his sanity and all that was the old Kurtz: “It had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation“ (Chapter 2, 49).
Kurtz could not be saved at the end, because he did not want to leave the place where he earned his wealth and fame, even if it meant that he would save his life. All the power that he had did not allow him to leave his territory to other hands. At the end of the story, Kurtz becomes very ill. His sickness could easily be a reflection of his diseased and sick mind. His sickness also shows the great power of the wilderness to suck out all that is human from a man and leave him so weak and helpless as Kurtz was in the end.
His last words “The Horror! The Horror! ” (Chapter 3, 71) may represent all the strange and horrible things that he went through in Africa and all his actions, slaughtering and enslaving he did to the natives. Kurtz seems to be regretful about his actions, as it was not really his choice to become the man he was at the end, it was more the wilderness and the act of colonization, which he was a victim of, that destroyed his soul. At that time, he believed that he was doing the right thing by supporting the colonization and enslavement program.