Kurtz is a central figure in Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. He is an ivory trader who has become obsessed with acquiring as much ivory as possible. Kurtz has established his own trading post in the Belgian Congo where he has set himself up as king over a tribe of African natives who work for him. Kurtz is feared and respected by the native Africans who work for him. They fear his power over them, but they respect him because he is white and because he has brought their tribe wealth and prestige by selling the ivory obtained from their hunting expeditions to other whites living in Europe. Kurtz is a sick man, both physically and mentally. He has been marked by smallpox which has left him scarred on his face and body with permanent pockmarks (the spots caused by the disease). His mental state deteriorates as the story progresses, however, due to his exposure to tropical diseases such as malaria which causes him to hallucinate that he hears voices speaking to him from all sides. Kurtz’s madness grows until he becomes convinced that only death can save him from himself; thus it is symbolic of the darkness that has consumed his soul (as well as symbolic of Conrad’s critique of colonialism).