Review of Criticism

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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“Heart of Darkness” is a very unique story in which it has a much deeper meaning and impact to society, than people actually might think. Throughout its time of release, many readers have had different interpretations on what message it tried to convey. In the story, one of the significant moments was when Charles Marlow, the narrator, tells a lie to The Intended. However, several critics have discussed, that what Marlow says to The Intended about Kurtz’s last words is not actually a lie.

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In the “Heart of Darkness”, Marlow tells Kurtz’s fiancee, The Intended, that the last words Kurtz said when he died was her name, but in reality he said “The Horror”. Marlow thought he said a lie to protect the Intended, but actually told another horrible truth. In, “Marlow’s Lie: A Terrible Truth”, it states, “It is conceivable that the Intended’s name is, in a way, synonymous with the vision of horror that Kurtz looked into as he died” (Fowler 3).

During the whole story Kurtz’s vision is described as, “embracing … all the universe” (Fowler 3). This means that The Intended is somewhat “The Horror”, that Kurtz says when he is dying. Marlow knew he had to lie to The Intended to make her not feel scared or worried, he had no intention on telling the truth. Kurtz’s vision of the horror extends to everyone in society, even the most finest human beings will fall into the darkness and blackness, without even noticing it.

In addition,“Heart of Darkness”, has a complex way of telling the story. Charles Marlow, the narrator, is somewhat an alter ego of the author, Joseph Conrad. Conrad purposely made Marlow tell a lie to The Intended, but it has some irony to it. As stated in, “Kurtz’s Intended: The Heart of Heart of Darkness” by Bruce R. Stark, “Conrad shows us the horror that lay behind the splendid facades of Europe’s imperial capitals by placing the Intended’s drawing room within a city that is “sepulchral”(Stark 21). Conrad made The Intended and her surroundings seem very similar to the frightful realities that Kurtz saw, when he said “The horror!”. From Conrad’s view, he was trying to explain that “Europe and the Whites are the heart of the tale’s moral darkness” (Stark 6). So all in all, what Marlow said to The Intended was not a lie, in Conrad’s view.

Furthermore, when Marlow interacts and communicates with The Intended, he senses some similarities with what Kurtz said when he was dying. In the “Absence of God in “Heart of Darkness” by George Cheatham, he states, “the Intended and her translucent soul are just like Kurtz and his moral ideas- hollow-and that her name is in this real sense, “The horror!”(Cheatham 7). In the story, Marlow’s expectations change towards The Intended.

He slowly starts seeing a resemblance with Kurtz’s vision. As a result, Marlow starts to fear, causing him to lie. In addition, Cheatham says, “that the two are somehow the same being and that the jungle and city somehow provide the same morally dark setting”(Cheatham 6). This statement falls back on Bruce R. Stark’s position. The author, Joseph Conrad, made The Intended and Kurtz’s vision similar. Conrad hide a deeper truth to Marlow’s lie.

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Review of Criticism. (2020, Feb 14). Retrieved from