Heart of Darkness

Kurtz: Sanity in the Heart of Darkness

"Heart of Darkness" is about a man's journey into a darkness both physical and metaphorical: he travels to both the inner depths of the Belgian Congo and to the deepest regions of the human heart. In the novel, the shadowy world of Africa has been turned by the Company, an organization concerned with exporting ivory and civilizing natives, into a den of exploitation and greed, a place where insanity thrives in the heart of the Congo. Kurtz, a Company agent, represents sanity in this insane world.

The madness of the other characters, namely the Company's agents and pilgrims, reveals itself in a number of early incidents that only emphasize, by contrast, Kurtz's ability to reason. A French man-of-war is seen firing into the African bush, seemingly at nothing: "Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns...and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight." The "pop" made by the guns is symbolic of a crazed, incomprehensible, and ultimately futile attempt to subdue the continent. Similarly, Company men are engaged in detonating a series of explosions on a cliff for no apparent reason: "The cliff was not...

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