Travel can be a very stressful yet rewarding experience for many people. Tourism has started to become a very popular trend in modern society. Tourists travel across the globe to experience different cultures and traditions of various countries. People usually return to their households with a souvenir or a memorabilia to share that experience with others. This hobby dates back to the age of the British Empire when companies would go out to reach new shores to expand the empire and return home with gold, indentured servants, food, and other goods. When the men go out to conquer new worlds and change the world into a civilized society, they tend to adapt to the environment of the region they visit, sometimes for the worst. In Joseph Conrad’s turn of the century novella, Heart of Darkness, Conrad suggests that change in environment can lead to a change in one’s state of mind, including the transition to evil.
While some believe that the environment that a person resides in cannot influence their perceptions, most people would advocate that when a man gets attached to a certain environment they adapt to it mentally. Once a man becomes adapted to it mentally, it can be difficult to change their state of mind, whether it be good or evil. The company arrives in Africa to enlighten the natives and convert them to more civilized people. When Marlow walks from station to station, he sees the company men call the natives savages, criminals, murderers and other names that classify the natives as morally wrong and an ambiguous part of the world. As he continues onward, he notices a boiler lying in the grass, an undersized railroad car with its wheels in the air, and a detonation in order to build a railway even though the bomb was unnecessary.
This “objectless blasting was all the work being done,” according to Marlow and it did not help the company’s cause of improving the natives as well. Since the moment that the company arrived in the Congo, no actual work has been done by the men of the company. Back in England, these men would be working in a factory or farm and actually get some work done to sustain the nation, but as the environment has changed to the African jungle, the men are more evil, continuing to abuse the natives and not do any labor showing no progress in the mission. The deeper Marlow goes into the jungle, the more extreme the company men become as they become more greedy, lose their patience, and become obsessed about gaining more ivory. The deeper Marlow goes into the jungle, the company men tend to become more dark and sinister.
When Marlow travels from station to station, he meets various people that work for the company and conversed with them about the task at hand and Mr. Kurtz. The first interesting character that Marlow encounters is the chief accountant of the whole operation, who maintains spotless and clean attire throughout his stay in the Congo and stays put without even going into the jungle. When conversing with him, Marlow notices a sick man that is laying in the accountant’s office and the accountant grunted, “The groans of this sick person distract my attention.” The sick man did no harm to the accountant and yet he wants him to be removed from his office immediately. The company gets nothing done in the first place and the man, who seems to be the most civilized human in Africa at the time, is frustrated by a dying man in his office. Although the accountant dresses up with impeccable attire, he became less civilized and the jungle causes him to turn into an evil person that does not seem to care for the sick.
When people are tending to the sick, they are more likely to be sympathetic to that particular person, unlike the chief accountant. Marlow encounters Kurtz for the first time deep in the jungle and he sees that he is dying at this point. Marlow tends to him to keep him alive and learns how the jungle has changed Kurtz completely. Kurtz gets to the point where he is crawling on all fours to go back into the jungle as he enjoys being there. When Kurtz dies, Marlow is glad that he passes away because he does not want the world to realize what he became as a result of the jungle. He even acknowledges the fact that he “peeped over the edge.” As Marlow traveled down to Kurtz, he changed from being the truthful, civilized person he was and gets close to the point of insanity and evil, like Kurtz, merely peeping over the edge. The jungle almost took over Marlow like it changed Kurtz into an evil human
Mr. Kurtz can be considered an evil man, however, he transforms into that state because of the jungle he lives in. Kurtz is literally moments away from dying and “he cried whisperingly at some image, at some vision, —he cried twice, with a cry that was no more than a breath—‘The Horror! The Horror!’” Kurtz arrives to the Congo to because of the Intended in the first place and out of all the things he could say, he mentions “The Horror.” “The Horror” represents how people can succumb to evil ways, like Kurtz, as a result of this environment.
Even though Kurtz is crying this before he dies, he is actually acknowledging the bad things that he has done because of the jungle and actually enjoyed doing it. When Kurtz crawls on all fours back into the jungle, he demonstrates how the jungle has changed him drastically. Both the evil and the jungle are officially a part of him and he shows his appreciation that by doing this. Kurtz was a civilized and appreciated member of society back in England. Traveling deep into the jungle and not leaving, in spite of what became of him, however, establishes the fact that when someone stays in an environment for an extended period of time, their mentality changes as a result.
Individuals can become vicious when they are placed in an environment that changes their attitude drastically. Whenever people are going to different locations around the world, they tend to adapt to the atmosphere they live in. During the period of Imperialism, men would return home after being away for months in a land hundreds of miles away completely changed and crueler from before, usually taking them several weeks to get back to normal and adapt to the setting they actually live in. This psychological trait can even be seen today, as people are traveling non-stop around the world, become accustomed to the different location, and tend to be harsher than before their trip. It takes them a couple weeks to return to the behavior they originally had when they come back home but then again, travel can be stressful.
Courtney from Study Moose
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