Each person on the planet can be good or evil. It’s human nature. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the author shows how corruptible people are. Even the title symbolizes man’s capacity for evil. Throughout this novel, the characters show both good and evil. The first character to show these capacities is Marlow, the narrator. He shows his good side when he feels compassion for a chain gang of Africans. “A slight clinking behind me made me turn my head. Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path… before I climbed the hill,” (81-82).
Marlow can’t bare the sight of the prisoners. This compassion shows a flicker of good in his heart. But Marlow also shows evil. He sees dying Africans on his way to a meeting with the manager, and doesn’t lift a finger to help. “Black shapes crouched… They were dying slowly… I didn’t want any more loitering in the shade and I made haste to the station,” (83-84). Marlow just leaves. He doesn’t say a word to the manager. He doesn’t even try to help them himself. And after that, he doesn’t even think about them again.
Marlow shows a capacity for good, but the evil permeates him more. The next character who demonstrates both good and evil traits is the manager. He characterizes some good by getting Marlow the supplies he wants and needs to get the expedition underway. One example is when the manager gets rivets so Marlow can fix the steamboat. “I slapped him on the back and shouted, ‘We shall have rivets! ’” (100). The manager becomes corrupted by his lust for power. He wants to be in control of every aspect of the journey.
This craving for power drives him to put Mr. Kurtz into suspicion. The manager truly believes that Kurtz is doing so well with the ivory because he is vying for the manager position. “’Conceive you—that ass—he wants to be manager! ’” (104). The manager begins as good, but is corrupted by his power. The last character with an aptitude for good and evil is the amazing Mr. Kurtz himself. Kurtz is a superhero to all of the men in the Congo. He manages to find a seemingly never-ending supply of ivory and finds pay-dirt time after time when he is asked.
Kurtz is put on a pedestal so high, that Marlow becomes depressed when a rumor goes around that Kurtz has died. “By Jove! It’s all over. We are too late; he (Kurtz) has vanished… and my sorrow had a startling extravagance of emotion…” (124). Kurtz is portrayed as a person that every man dreams to be. The reality is not the case. After the expedition down the river, the crew finds that Kurtz has created his own world, where he is God, the savages are his slaves, and he owns everything. Kurtz is corrupted by his own greed. “Oh, yes, I heard him.
‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—‘ everything belonged to him,” (126). Kurtz is the epitome of good and evil. He is shown to be the best person in Africa. But the reality is that Kurtz is a sick, twisted human being. He really presents the dual-capacity of human beings. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, characters reveal good and evil aspects to their personalities. Marlow is compassionate but passive. The manager is corrupted by his desire for power. And Kurtz is corrupted by his avarice. People need to take this message from Conrad and always brandish their good sides.
Courtney from Study Moose
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