Heart of Darkness: The Horror the horror!

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With Kurtz’ dying words being “The horror! The horror!” the readers are left with the question as to what he meant by that statement. And as one of those readers, I could only come to the conclusion that he was referring to the horror being a form of emptiness, a profound nothingness that lies at the heart of everything.

At the beginning of the novel, Kurtz’s character has been a great mystery to Marlow and everyone else. And as the story progresses, we learn that his immersion in the wilderness has fundamentally changed him. Living deep in the woods of Congo, among ‘savages’ and cut off from the outside world, Kurtz has learned some deep, dark secrets about the ‘true’ nature of life. It is a secret to which he believes that most people will either cannot and will not hear. And due to this ‘secret’, he turned from one of the most cultured man who writes and reads poetry into a paranoid individual who came to the incongruous conclusion that Europeans must “Exterminate all the brutes!”

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And what might bring this tremendous change? As Marlow suggested, Kurtz’ time in the wild released a much more primitive, instinctual nature in him – a nature that resides deep within all of us with the fact that the social norm helps keep it suppressed in our subconscious. As described in the novel, Kurtz became a very powerful figure to the natives over the time he was there. From this, it is simple to suggest that he has achieved a god-like status among the natives who cared for him and did his bidding however gruesome they might’ve been.

The only reason I could fathom why he chose to tell Marlow of this is because of the fact that Kurtz just wanted someone to know. To just be able to get it out of his chest before he died, and pass on the message that not a lot of people in this world could or would accept. And I believe that it’s part of the reason why Marlow lied to Kurtz’ Intended when asked about Kurtz’ last words. Because if revealed the truth, Marlow believes that it would only crush her. The truth that there is no real method or purpose to life. I mean, wouldn’t you be crushed as well if told you about this ‘truth?’ And that’s why Kurtz referred to it as a form of horror due to the idea that each individual are only given an illusion by the society in order to carry on their ‘life’. But for someone like Kurtz who has been cut off from the society’s rules and morals, it is only understandable that he would think that way. And thus, that’s what I think he meant when he mentions of the horror that is nothingness and a purposeless life.

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Heart of Darkness: The Horror the horror!. (2016, Jun 25). Retrieved from


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