The Downfall of Kurtz Enveloped within Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Kurtz fails for many reasons and in many ways. Kurtz's failure is especially tragic because he once had the potential for great success. He was an eloquent, powerful, and persuasive speaker who at one point was adored by all the inhabitants of the heart of darkness, the great and mysterious jungle. Everyone from the innocent natives to the administration of his corrupt company was in awe of him. Why then, did someone with such amazing promise fail? Even from the beginning, Kurtz was made out to be an icon, an idol.

To Marlow, he was the only thing that made sense in the company, on a journey, in a wilderness full of confusion. The company hailed him as their biggest asset and success. He delivered massive amounts of ivory to them and they liked that very much. Kurtz represented many things to many people. In class, we described him as a representation of the wilderness, the voice, a superior God-like being, an imperialist who was a symbol of colonization, and a symbol of the jungle. We also considered him a symbol of power, dehumanized, unhuman, a rule-breaker who had to face his consequences, and a once-great man who was trapped somewhere in the layers of the Heart of Darkness.

Late in the book, several characters mention all the things that Kurtz could have been, his great potential. Kurtz's cousin came to Marlow wishing to know about Kurtz's last moments. He told Marlow that Kurtz had once been a great musician (Conrad, pg. 71). Later, a journalist told him that Kurtz had the potential to be an excellent politician (Conrad, pg. 71).

It was also said that he would have been a splendid lawyer. No one could deny that whatever he was, and whatever he did, as his cousin said, Kurtz was 'a universal genius' (Conrad, pg 157). Kurtz also possessed a "gift of expression." (Stewart, 361) He had an uncanny ability to persuade and influence people with his articulate way of communicating. Perhaps it was his extreme promise that lead to his failure.

The higher the height you fall from the greater the fall. He was not the only one in the jungle that failed, but his fall was worse because he had the most potential. All the characters reacted to their new environment differently. A common bond was that all of them were desperately hanging on to anything familiar. In the process of keeping up their civilized dress and culture, most of them lost their humanity.

The manager was continuously described as nothing more than ordinary, thus it was not shocking to learn of the corruption that he encouraged in the company. Mr. Kurtz was the 'chief of the inner station' (Conrad, pg. 28). He was 'in charge of a trading post, a very important one, in the true ivory country.' Kurtz sent in 'as much ivory as all the others put together' (Conrad, pg. 22).

The company described him as the 'best agent, an exceptional man, of the greatest importance to the company' (Conrad, pg. 25). Kurtz went to the jungle for many reasons, but mostly to make money to return to Europe and marry his intended. Marlow 'heard that her engagement with Kurtz had been disapproved by her people. He wasn't rich enough or something.' He had given Marlow 'some reason to infer that it was his impatience of comparative poverty that drove him out there' (Conrad, pg. 74).

He had been driven into the jungle to procure money for the company and for himself and for his life with his intended. Greed is what kept him out there so long and clouded his mind regarding thoughts of nobility. Spending so much time in the savage jungle dehumanized Kurtz. He lost sight of the thin line between goodness and corruption, as did many others before him. Kurtz ended up raiding the country on his frequent ivory expeditions. He had a tendency to become cruel, once even threatening to kill his friend, the Russian.

This makes the reader question Kurtz's priorities. How could he threaten the person closest to him over something that held nothing more than monetary value? The Russian had been given ' a small lot of ivory' by a village chief and Kurtz said he would kill him if he did not hand it over. This is only a glimpse into the probability that Kurtz has come to value money over people, and thereby wealth over humanity. Kurtz hated his job and the jungle, but he had become too greedy to leave.

His greed was his prison. He stopped caring about the natives and how they viewed him. He began to treat them cruelly, especially when they went against him. He went as far as posting sunken heads on stakes outside of his window. He felt they were rebels, so by displaying them he set an example. He had been living in an uncivilized land for too long and the land's savagery had rubbed off on him.

(Levenson, 393) No matter how you look at it Kurtz was a failure. He tries to break the spell of the wilderness, but cannot. (Guerard, pg. 245) He lost the admiration of the natives and of the company, and most importantly, he never made it back to Europe to claim his intended. We see the way Kurtz views his time in the jungle in his tragic last words: 'the horror, the horror' (Conrad, pg.

68). Kurtz knew what he was, and was hurt when he thought of what he could have been. (Labrasca, 289) The jungle had robbed him of his dignity, he had become a savage and he died being fully aware of what he had become. Bibliography Works Consulted: Achebe, China. An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. 3 rd Norton Critical Edition.

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