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"I like to think my summing-up would not have been a word of careless contempt. Better his cry – much better. It was an affirmation, a moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats, but abominable terrors, by abominable satisfactions. But it was a victory! That is why I have remained loyal to Kurtz to the last, and even beyond, when a long time after I heard once more, not his own voice, but the echo of his magnificent eloquence thrown to me from a soul as translucently pure as a cliff of crystal." (3.48)
Marlow suspects that, had he faced such a challenge, he would not have had Kurtz’s courage to judge, to hang on to a true belief. His judgment would have been "a word of careless contempt," perhaps a meaningless one. This is why, he claims, he remains loyal to Kurtz – he wants something to believe in firmly and resolutely and unwaveringly, just as Kurtz did.
"The voice was gone. What else had been there?" (3.46)
Kurtz is referred to as simply a voice. Now that that is gone, he is truly dead. Marlow does not make any references to Kurtz’s soul as he believes it is lost to perdition. Only emptiness remains in Kurtz’s wake.
"[…] I heard him [Kurtz] mutter, 'Live rightly, die, die . . .' I listened. There was nothing more. Was he rehearsing some speech in his sleep, or was it a fragment of a phrase from some newspaper article? He had been writing for the papers and meant to do so again, 'for the furthering of my ideas. It's a duty.'" (3.39)
In his dying stages, Kurtz’s words become incomprehensible to Marlow. He does not know whether Kurtz’s meditations on life and death are meant for himself or for the public.