on 28 August 2014
One of the book's theme is eloquence, the beauty of expression, and the power it evokes. When Marlow thinks that Kurtz is dead, he becomes despondent because he will never hear Kurtz talk. I also find it interesting how it seems that Kurtz's deficiences of being physically weak are not discussed in detail and is outweighed by his ability to speak, which empowers him to be a dominating figure over others.
The book at times was difficult to read because it made me become aware of the darkness inside people, and made me reflect on my personal dark periods. The ending is extremely painful, when Marlow and Kurtz's wife continuously complement Kurtz, and how as each praise is said, both their hearts feel darker, because they both know what this remarkable man did. Marlow does not reveal the explicit details to Kurtz's wife because he wanted to "keep back alone for the salvation of another soul."
For parts of the book, I could not understand why Marlow should continue to stay with Kurtz until the end. But I found parts towards the end brilliant when Kurtz's final words was 'horrible'. What I think this means, is that Kurtz (which includes his subconscious) knew all along that what he was doing was evil, and for Marlow to hear this revived his hope in human nature. And thus that Kurtz had essentially a pure heart. 'I went no more near the remarkable man who had pronounced judgment upon the adventures of his soul on this earth.'
I remember a description of a rich, starch-collared chief accountant and thought this was wonderful to read. It made me think of Churchill's outfit when he met Tito at Naples 12 August 1944. The account is on page 22: "Moreover, I respected the fellow. Yes; I respected his collars, his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. His appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser's dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance. That's backbone. His starched collars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements of character...this man had verily accomplished something. And he was devoted to his books, which were in apple-pie order."
I particularly enjoyed reading the following passages:
"I wasn't very interested in him. No. Still, I was curious to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all, and how he would set about his work when there."
"Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake."
"I saw him extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture...a treacherous appeal..to the profound darkness of its heart."
"I was cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz."
"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."
"It gave me the notion of an exotic immensity ruled by an august benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence-of words- of being noble words."
"...and to this day I don't know why I was so jealous of sharing with anyone the particular blackness of that experience."
"I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, you know, but as discoursing. I didn't say to myself, Now I will never see him, or Now I will never shake him by the hand, but, Now I will never hear him. The man presented himself as a voice. Not of course that I did not connect him with some sort of action. Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected...his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out pre-eminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words- the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness."
"...I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up- he had judged. "The horror!" He was a remarkable man."
"...and to this day I am unable to say what was Kurtz's profession, whether he ever had any- which was the greatest of his talents. I had taken...He was a universal genius...but heavens! how that man could talk! He electrified large meetings."
"...Who was not his friend who had heard him speak once? She was saying. He drew men towards him by what was best in them. She looked at me with intensity. It is the gift of the great, she went on."
"How can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man's untrammeled feet may take him into by way of solitude- utter solitude without a policeman- by the way of silence, utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbour can be heard whispering of public opinion. These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness..the earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells too, by Jove!- breathe dead hippo, so to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don't you see? Your strength comes in, the faith in your ability for the digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in- your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, back-breaking buisness."
"This was the unbounded power of eloquence-of words- of burning noble words."
"He (Kurtz) won't be forgotten. Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated with-dance in his honor; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings, he had one devoted friend at least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentary or self-seeking."
"Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration."
"Soul satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success and power."