Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Charlie Marlow Quotes
"No; I can't forget him [Kurtz], though I am not prepared to affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life we lost in getting to him. I missed my late helmsman awfully - I missed him even while his body was still lying in the pilot-house…It was a kind of partnership. He steered for me - I had to look after him, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtle bond had been created, of which I only became aware when it was suddenly broken. And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory - like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment." (2.29)
Marlow may be on the edge, but he hasn't gone over it: unlike Kurtz, he still has some basic human emotion left. He's touched by death and honestly grieves at the loss of a man that he considers his partner. Well, kind of. He still sees the guy as primarily "an instrument" to help him get where he wants to go.
[Marlow on Kurtz's writing]: "…the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him [Kurtz] with the make of a report, for its future guidance…it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them (savages) in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might as of a deity,' and so on, and so on. 'By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,' etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence - of words - of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot on the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes!'" (2.29).
Kurtz's last letter starts off all noble, talking about benevolence and exerting good and bringing light and blah blah blah. Things take a dire turn at the end when he scrawls, "Exterminate all the brutes"—and notice how this rather upsetting sentence is compared to a "flash of lightning"? Yeah, we saw that too.
"The red-haired pilgrim was beside himself with the thought that at least this poor Kurtz had been properly avenged. 'Say! We must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh? What do you think? Say?' He positively danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar. And he had nearly fainted when he saw the wounded man! I could not help saying, 'You made a glorious lot of smoke, anyhow.' I had seen, from the way the tops of the bushes rustled and flew, that almost all the shots had gone too high." (2.31)
The red-haired pilgrim shows his evil side by rejoicing at the thought of killing the native Africans who attacked them. He's not only "bloodthirsty" but also a hypocrite, since he "nearly fainted" at the sight of the wounded helmsman. Marlow despises him, obviously.