Heart of Darkness written by Joseph Conrad, reveals the true nature of corruption, and intense lust that resides within the human psyche. The secondary theme, restraint, plays an immense role all throughout the novel showing the readers what can happen when a character lacks restraint, or has the capability to keep hold of it. Mr. Kurtz is a character who only appears briefly; however, this character has the deepest impact on how the readers view “lack of restraint”. Kurtz portrays an ambitious and normal man who figures out that to thrive within the Interior, he must make himself appear God-like, to make himself appear as if he could handle being “primitive” to civilization and the proverbial light. Unfortunately, greed finds its  way in to block the light. Kurtz’s unappeasable hunger for ivory compels him to make enemies as well as alliances among the native Africans, griefing one village after another with the support of his native “friends” as he forages for ivory. Kurtz’s obsession becomes so intense Conrad/ Marlow even delineates him in terms of the material he seeks: Kurtz’s head “was like a ball—an ivory ball” (Conrad 2.29), and when uttering his final words, he holds an “expression of sombre pride” on his “ivory face” (Conrad 3.42). The congo has “got into his veins, consumed his flesh” (Conrad 2.29), turning him into a completely different man. Perhaps this is why Marlow states multiple times that Kurtz has “no restraint” (Conrad 2.30, 3.29). It is not quite as simple as “Kurtz goes to jungle; Kurtz becomes like native Africans; Heads on sticks ensue.” In fact, Kurtz develops into someone or something else altogether; something much worse. (The horror! The horror!) Understand this, Africans do show some decency and hardly lack restraint. One example of the Africans proving their restraint is the cannibals who chose to eat rotten hippo meat rather than attacking the pilgrims whom they outnumbered five to one. Kurtz has been completely consumed by the dark powers of the jungle. The darkness has transfigured into its “spoiled and pampered favorite.”(Conrad 2.29). Kurtz has practically become a child, not a kind-hearted one, but a corrupt, greedy, and brutal bully on some playground. As Marlow so perfectly says, the “powers of darkness have claimed him for their own” (Conrad 2.29).Kurtz is a character who seemingly manipulates all of the other characters around him in order to gain something from them. “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.” (Conrad 66) There are even some characters who had never met Kurtz yet they seemed to give him the satisfaction of obsessing over him, such as Marlow. Mr. Kurtz’s behavior relates directly to the secondary theme of the novel which is restraint. Joseph Conrad portrays Mr. Kurtz in such a way that Kurtz does not have to be present in the book for the readers to understand and realize his corruption, greed, and lack of restraint. One major problem that lies within Mr. Kurtz is his influence on people. Kurtz has a heavy influence over the company heads and steals ivory from not only native Africans, but characters who are close to Kurtz such as the Russian, Harlequin. The Russian is a character who nursed Kurtz back to health twice and in return Kurtz backstabbed him and threatened to murder him for ivory. Kurtz’s actions only make it more clear that he has absolutely no restraint or self control. “Ivory rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it.” (Conrad 29). Nobody could pinpoint the exact cause of this character’s downfall but his mind was definitely sick and full of lust for ivory. Kurtz has intruded onto native land to “colonize” native savages but it was all a scam for him to steal ivory and in the progress of that his mind became completely unrestrained.Apart from being engulfed with greed, Kurtz is also mentally sick. “It was very simple and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!'” (Conrad 68). This is one of the first signs of Kurtz’s madness: the rest of the manuscript diverges so sharply from the tone of his postscriptum. Kurtz is no longer idealistic or rational; he is deranged and quite desperate. So desperate and deranged in fact that he cannot even remember it or does not seem to think that it could be problematic. In essence, it is someone such as Kurtz, who finds themselves completely alone, when he frees himself from the European constraints, when he is no longer restricted to obey cultural laws or submit himself to his family or friends’ expectations, that he finds out who he truly is deep inside. It is here that the dormant fears and deep yearnings finally begin rising to the surface. The wilderness of the mind conceals this dark mystery, however it can never be truly denied. It can be songs from the sirens that will lure and lead sailors to death and cause the good men to go insane. This madness is the inner voice inside the human mind, overlapping thoughts with the truth, intriguing yet despicable, terrifying and inevitable, of who humans really are. This is what Marlow means when he tells of the unhinging touch of the wilderness on Kurtz. Here, the cold wilderness is the apparition of the darkness of Kurtz’s subconscious. Another problem with Kurtz is that he has enemies among the wilderness as well as within his own company. “The climate may do away with this difficulty for you. Is he alone there? ‘Yes,’ answered the manager ‘he sent his assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms: “Clear this poor devil out of the country.” (Conrad 41). Mr. Kurtz is a very dangerous man and by using absolute force against others he brings in more ivory than any of the other stations combined. This exact reason is what causes men like the Manager to be frightened of Kurtz. Marlow declares that “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz,” (Conrad 2.13) and this is proven true by Kurtz’s existence alone: Like the Company, Kurtz epitomizes the lust and greed that Marlow observes in the Congo. Although, unlike the Company, Kurtz has very little interest in how “obnoxious fools” perceive him.

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