Lauren RussellMr.SpanierEnglish 4 AP p.513 December 2017Immorality in the Congo Everyone has a different perception of the concept of morality. To a child, life has the potential to be pure and hopeful because they are sheltered from the concept of evil. However, as the child matures into an adult, they may find that life’s not always clean and there are immoral people in the world. In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Marlow’s passion for travel leads him out of his comfort zone, his superego, and takes him into the depths of the Congo where he is exposed to the darkness that can be found within. Marlow’s individual beliefs of good and evil, civilization and savagery and moral standards change with his experiences throughout his journey in the Congo, allowing Conrad to expand on the layers that can be found in the Heart of Darkness and explain an underlying truth about the morality of humanity. Before Marlow leaves for the Congo, he has a sense of natural morality. He held on to his child-like innocence because he has never had direct exposure to evil or immorality. Marlow gathered his perception of right and wrong based on what he saw around him; social mannerisms and traditional religious beliefs. His civilized community projected their beliefs onto his. Before the Congo, Marlow “detests and cant bear a lie”. Not because he believes he is better than everyone else or that he holds himself to higher standards but because he believes “There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies”. Honesty is such an honorable trait but it is also inconsequential. It takes someone of high integrity to successfully carry out a life of honesty. Marlow holds onto his naive perception of morality because he has never exhibited anything other than the unadulterated community in which he had grown up in. Marlow’s innocence is impaired once he becomes exposed to and intrigued by the impurities of the Congo and Mr. Kurtz. Marlow had always been intrigued by the idea of traveling up the mysterious Congo river and into the map of Africa ever since he was a little boy. What Marlow found when he finally arrived was that the Congo is a very dark, reprehensible place. The approach of an environment that neglects high moral standards peaked Marlow’s interest. It was much different from what Marlow was used to back home. As he approached the Congo he noted the ” haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.” Marlow paid attention to the irri setting of his new environment and immediately came to the conclusion that London may not as great of a place as he wanted it to be. Marlow’s morality started to shift once he was taken out of his small bubble of familiar purity and thrown into a city of darkness. He was hooked on the feeling of unfamiliarity and he was fascinated by the people living in the local village and how they responded to influential businessmen like Kurtz. His unhealthy obsession with his new environment and the people of the Congo subconsciously influenced him to tweak his child-like innocence so he could adapt to what was around him. Throughout his Journey in the Congo, Marlow looks up to Kurtz as a powerful businessman. Mr. Kurtz was well respected by everyone in the Congo because of his impressive leadership skills in the ivory business. Because of his success, he was “being groomed for a higher position” and held a God-like status in his community. Since Kurtz has such a powerful influence over Marlow, Marlow develops an unhealthy obsession with Kurtz and the power he has acquired since he started his life in the Congo. As the novels progresses Kurtz’s true colors begin to show. Kurtz started his journey with good intentions. He wanted to make something of himself so he could prove he was worthy of a woman he had fallen in love with back home. Kurtz was born into a lower social status he needed to go somewhere that would allow him to make something of himself. Kurtz became addicted to the power and glory he achieved from his hard work and his intentions changed, he began to darken. ” his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself and, by heavens I tell you, it had gone mad.”. The power and respect he had acquired went to his head and Kurtz became entitled and selfish with his business and “followers”, “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.” (44). Everything that came with the Jungle: greed, deception and immorality had changed Kurtz and made him an unprincipled man. On his deathbed, Kurtz had a moment of reflection on the life he had led in the Congo and what his legacy would leave behind, “he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: The horror! The horror!”. Kurtz says this as a reaction to what he has witnessed in Africa, the exploitation of Africa, evil practices of humans, his disturbed state of mind and Kurtz’s realization of the bitter and absolute truth of his life. These words had haunted Marlow as he chose between two evils: Kurtz or the Congo. Marlow cares so deeply that Kurtz’s death physically causes Marlow to feel faint like he is on the cusp of death as well. In reception to the death of Kurtz, he made the conscious decision to carry out Kurtz’s legacy after he had passed away by taking on his ideas about the congo and his ivory business. What Kurtz had left behind to Marlow was a reflection of Kurtz’s desire to be idolized rather than making things right and fixing the mess and corruption he had left in the Congo, Marlow finds them “childish” but still clings to them because of his obsessions.The Congo was a place where people felt it was okay to manipulate one another and exploited the Congo to a materialistic, malicious place of business. Kurtz’s moral ambiguity and wretched business ethics is what influences Marlow’s interest and causes his morality to change for the worst. The narrator perceives Marlow to be “a meditating Buddha” because his experiences in the Congo had made him introspective and to a certain degree philosophic and wise. In the end, Marlow had really become just like Kurtz. There was ultimately a price to pay for their greed and immorality. Men like Kurtz lost their mind, lost their soul or both and they die knowing that they could not truly be proud of what they had become. Their intentions did not stay innocent because of the darkness that is fed to them through business like the ivory trade and people like Kurtz.
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