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lighthod The Epiphany in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

The Epiphany in Heart of Darkness

In The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Marlow experiences an epiphany, a dramatic moment in which he intuitively grasps the meaning of a situation. Marlow’s epiphany begins when Marlow’s helmsman was killed in an attack by savages as they were progressing up the Congo between the central station and the inner station.

Marlow had a realization about the darkness within man’s soul. His helmsman, whom Marlow viewed with a kind of partnership, was killed by the natives sent by Kurtz, and his body fell bleeding upon Marlow’s feet. In that moment, Marlow begins thinking about the evil which is involved in the entire ivory trade operation, and which he later finds Kurtz is engulfed in. Marlow immediately removes his bloodied shoes and throws them overboard. This can be seen as an action showing how Marlow wanted to remove himself from all of the violence, bloodshed and evil of the ivory trade he was involved in. Marlow continues to grasp the essential nature of man’s heart of darkness later on in the story when he is conversing with Kurtz in the woods. There, he “struggled with a soul.” Marlow’s mind set changes from seeing all of the glory and profit involved in the ivory trade, to also seeing the horribly evil involved, the death and destruction. Almost every other white in the ivory trade is in it for profit, as Kurtz was. When asked, one of the men who traveled into Congo said he was in it “just for the money, of course.” Marlow realizes that, in Kurtz’s operation especially, there is much evil involved. The darkness had “got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to it own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation.” Powers of darkness had “claimed him for their own.” Kurtz was reported to “preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which-as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times -were offered up to him.” All of theses show how Kurtz allowed himself to become engulfed in evil and darkness.

The significance of this change in Marlow is that Marlow realizes that within every man there is a heart of darkness, which can overtake a man as it did to Kurtz.

lighthod The Dark Soul of Man in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Heart Darkness essays

Dark Soul of Man Exposed in Heart of Darkness Conrad’s setting of a “night journey” into the Congo becomes an appropriate metaphor. This “Heart of Darkness” that Marlow penetrates of the heart of darkness contained in every man. The insights gained by Marlow into the condition of the human heart are the same insights gained by a careful, thoughtful reader. As Marlow makes his way to Kurtz’s camp and his knowledge of this savage land is deepened, so is our understanding of the inherent darkness within every man. The discovery is this: In our deepest nature, all men are savage. The name Kurtz, which is German for short, has symbolic meaning. The physical shortness in Kurtz implies a shortness of character and spirit. His shortfalls are made apparent as Marlow learned more about him, “Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts.” Our enlightenment into the corruption of men’s souls eventually becomes complete when Marlow meets Kurtz and finds out what Kurtz has really become, one with the land, devolved to a primitive state. Marlow and Kurtz could be considered as two conditions of human existence, Kurtz representing what Man could become if left to his own intrinsic devices outside protective society. Marlow, then, representing a pure untainted civilized soul who has not been drawn to savagery by a dark, alienated jungle. According to Conrad, the will to give into the uncivilized man does not just reside Kurtz alone. Every man has inside himself a heart of darkness. This heart is drowned in a bath of light shed by the advent of civilization. No man is an island, and no man can live on an island without becoming a brutal savage. Inside his heart lies the raw evil of untamed lifestyles.

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