check out our:
"Evidently the appetite for more ivory had got the better of the - what shall I say? - less material aspirations. However he had got much worse suddenly. 'I heard he was lying helpless, and so I came up - took my chance,' said the Russian. 'Oh, he is bad, very bad.'" (3.4)
Kurtz’s greed and corruption manifest themselves physically, in the form of illness.
"These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing - food for thought and also for vultures if there had been any looking down from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enough to ascend the pole. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house. Only one, the first I had made out, was facing my way. I was not so shocked as you may think. The start back I had given was really nothing but a movement of surprise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen - and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids - a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber." (3.4)
In a horrifying moment of revelation, Marlow discovers that the balls at the top of the poles (which he took to be ornamental wooden knobs) are actually skulls. Kurtz is so depraved that he can kill Africans and ostentatiously display their heads to the world, perhaps in pride and perhaps to inspire fear in them.
[Marlow reacting to the realization that Kurtz has staked up skulls outside his hut]: After all, that was only a savage sight, while I seemed at one bound to have been transported into some lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief, being something that had a right to exist – obviously – in the sunshine. (3.6)
"He [Kurtz] hated all this, and somehow he couldn't get away. When I had a chance I begged him to try and leave while there was time; I offered to go back with him. And he would say yes, and then he would remain; go off on another ivory hunt; disappear for weeks; forget himself amongst these people – forget himself – you know.’" (3.4)
Kurtz demonstrates the hypnotizing power of evil. Even though he despises the whole affair, Kurtz stays in the interior, drawn by the act of killing, of obtaining more ivory, of forgetting his identity amongst the native Africans. The evil wilderness has claimed him and will not allow him to leave of his own free will.