Heart of Darkness

Marlow decides to visit his "Intended," or fiance. Why does Marlow lie to her about Kurtz's last words?

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Marlowe visits the woman in the picture, who embraces and welcomes him. She has silently mourned for the past year, and she needs to profess her love and how she knew Kurtz better than anyone. Marlow perceives that the room darkens when she says this. She speaks of Kurtz's amazing ability to draw people in through his incredibly eloquent speech. The woman says she will be unhappy for life. Marlow states that they can always remember him. She expresses a desperate need to keep his memory alive, as well as guilt that she was not with him when he died. When the woman asks Marlow what Kurtz's final words were, he lies and says that Kurtz spoke her name. The woman weeps in triumph.

Marlow's lie at the end of the story is both cruel and compassionate. While the woman is comforted, she will have to continue believing in an illusion. She will never know what Kurtz became. Marlow states that the truth is "too dark" to tell. But truly, his terrible decline is in vain if no one learns of it. And is the woman so weak that she cannot really hear the truth? Telling Kurtz’s tale is the point of Marlow's telling his story aboard the Thames ship. A river can lead to civilization—but it also leads to darkness.