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Heart of Darkness

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Preparation 04/02/13

Part 1: Heart of Darkness

Question 1

The Accountant: He lives at the Outer Station and is the company's main accountant. He greets Marlow and tells him about Kurtz. Conrad uses the accountant to show that with restraint, a person is sensible and level-headed, even in difficult conditions, in contrast with the helmsman and Kurtz that Marlow will encounter later. The accountant is restrained by his commitment to his appearance and his work.

The Manager: He runs the company and is not particularly talented. He makes people uneasy. The general manager shows how restraint keeps people from becoming savage. He outlasts Kurtz and everyone else in Africa by being patient and following all of the rules.

Kurtz: He is the most successful agent for the Dutch trading company. Kurtz becomes so entwined in his trade that he breaks the rules of his company and employs savage techniques to get ivory. He becomes very ill and before his death, he tries to escape civilization and go into the jungle. Kurtz is critical to the meaning of the novel. His initial goals disappeared as he rose to be the top agent in the Belgian Congo. His change from an idealistic imperialist to an ivory-obsessed agent is used to show that the Europeans could not "civilize" Africa. Africa made Europeans un-"civilized." After being isolated for too long, he had become a beast, with the heads of Africans on poles at his station. Kurtz, a good man in Europe, had lost all restraint, even ignoring the rules of his own company. Conrad illustrates that without restraint, people tend towards savagery through Kurtz's attempted escape into the jungle.

Question 2

Marlow's attitude to work creates the basis of his reflections on progress, civilization and colonialism. His work ethics is extremely developed and puritanical, in a sense: he likes being active and solving problems, and he seems to think it is our precise duty to work efficiently. Work saves him many times in the novel because it allows him not to "look too much into the darkness." When his boat breaks down at the Central Station, he reverts to work to avoid talking to the ambiguous manager and to focus on his mission; he also uses work not to fall prey to the power of the "wilderness" around him.

Of course, his view is ambivalent: he basically focuses on work when he does not want to probe his own self and others'; in the end, he will not be able to escape his fate of exploring the deepest recesses of the human soul and dissecting the subliminal desires of a European culture he belongs to. At the beginning, the effort to colonize, or rather, to "civilize" Africa is hidden behind the protective screen of efficiency - which takes us



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