Heart of Darkness

The Helpless Villainy of Kurtz

The most nefarious villains are those who understand the evil they commit but pay no heed. In Heart of Darkness, however, the major villain, Kurtz, is not one of these characters. More than anything, he is depicted as being helpless in the face of a greater force which compels him to act in a depraved manner. He does not choose to act villainously, but nonetheless must do so. He cannot prevail against the nature deep within him, and the nature all around him. In the jungle, there is only the law of the wild. Kurtz's role as a villain stems from the dark, perverted knowledge of freedom that he gains in the jungle and the subsequent destruction of all boundaries previously imposed by society.

The narrator tells the reader that Kurtz travels to the Congo with the best of intentions. It was his wish to help civilize those whom the Europeans viewed as savages. Though he undoubtedly possessed a racist attitude, he also genuinely wished to help the natives in the Congo. He had been renowned in Europe for his efforts on behalf of the Africans, and the narrator initially described him as being a true humanitarian. The manager tells Marlow, "He is an emissary of pity, and science, and progress.... [He is the guide] of the cause...

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