Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Their headman, a young, broad-chested black, severely draped in dark-blue fringed cloths, with fierce nostrils and his hair all done up artfully in oily ringlets, stood near me. 'Aha!' I said, just for good fellowship's sake. 'Catch 'im,' he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth - 'catch 'im. Give 'im to us.' 'To you, eh?' I asked; 'what would you do with them?' 'Eat 'im!' he said curtly, and, leaning his elbow on the rail, looked out into the fog in a dignified and profoundly pensive attitude. I would no doubt have been properly horrified, had it not occurred to me that he and his chaps must be very hungry: that they must have been growing increasingly hungry for at least this month past." (2.14)
Marlow just can't help feeling sympathy for the native Africans, even though he knows that what they really want is to nosh on some tasty human flesh. Now that is fellow feeling.
[Marlow describing Kurtz's speech]: "The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out pre-eminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words—the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness." (2.24)
Language can be used for good or evil. Fair enough. We accept that Kurtz has a silver tongue, and he's been using it to manipulate everyone into thinking that he's a swell guy. Okay—so which side is Conrad on?
"You should have heard him say, 'My ivory.' Oh, yes, I heard him. 'My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my - ' everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him - but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible — it was not good for one either - trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land - I mean literally." (2.29)
Kurtz, in his madness, is being taken over by the "powers of darkness." He no longer belongs to himself, but to the evil wilderness because he has accepted worship from the native Africans, who are described as "devils," and willingly taking his place among them. In essence, Marlow claims, Kurtz has accepted a seat in hell and thus belongs to the darkness.