The darkness of an individual's heart

Although Kurtz's self-centered view allows him to see the darkness of an individual's heart, it is also this same view--caused by his capitalistic obsession with ivory, lack of civilizing influence, and "The fascination of the abomination"-that prevents him from seeing the redeeming qualities of civilization. In response to Kurtz's pronouncement-"The Horror!"-Marlowe says this: "Kurtz's stare...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." Kurtz could not see the flame, yet the flame does exist. How could Kurtz be so blind to miss that one flicker of light in the 'unfathomable darkness'? The key is that Kurtz did fathom the darkness, but could only do so because of his totally self-centered view.

The misplaced focus that capitalism places on the individual over society drives Kurtz's inward, self-centered spiral, manifesting in his obsession with ivory. At its core, the capitalistic system that permeates Heart of Darkness is based upon the importance of the individual, the maximization of shareholder value, the ]total disregard for the good of civilization in favor of the 'Almighty Buck']. Even in his darkest moments "the appetite for more ivory had got the better of the...less material aspirations." This appetite led him to even more "unsound method" that, according to the Manager, "ruined the district" and "closed the district to us for a time." The tenants of capitalism tell Kurtz to use the method that will most maximize his future in the company, his future monetary worth. Likewise, the Manager calls Kurtz's method "unsound" and closes the district to defraud Kurtz and thus maximize his future profit. Neither of these actions benefit the district; capitalism drives each individual to ignore what is best for society as a whole and instead "look out for number one."

With no civilizing influence to restrain his vagrancies, Kurtz's selfish attitude becomes still further developed. In one sense, the purpose of civilization is to restrain corporations from the more destructive practices of capitalism. We are supposed to react with shock when we hear about Kurtz's excesses because it is a 'crime against humanity.' Similarly, we don't allow murder because it would do civilization as a whole more bad than good. However, as Kurtz descends into the "Heart of Darkness" that the inner station represents, all of these restraints drop away. Now it becomes plain that "Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts". He uses the 'rebels' heads to deter future attacks against him and accepts his position as the natives' God. This in no way benefits others; it is done solely for his personal benefit, damn the consequences to others. Kurtz's self-centered attitude has been increased tremendously by simply removing a few mental restraints.

While the previous two causes contributed to Kurtz's decline, it is his embrace of the "abomination" of Africa that drives him over the edge into a completely self-centered view. According to Marlowe, "I tried to break the spell-the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness-that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions." Kurtz stares into the face of the "abomination" of Africa and is horrified, but he is also fascinated and slowly begins to follow its questionable ways. While some of the natives' traditions might have been beneficial to society, it is not these that Kurtz embraces. Instead, Kurtz accepts the worship of the natives, the human sacrifices, the 'ornamental' rebels and uses it to benefit solely himself. It is this combination of the removal of all restraints and the ability to become a 'God' in a group of worshipers' eyes that allow Kurtz's selfishness to grow without bound.

The capitalistic philosophy that underlies all of Heart of Darkness plants the first seed of Kurtz's ensuing total self-centeredness. This seed germinates when Kurtz arrives at the central station-the 'Heart of Darkness'-and all civilizing influences are removed. It finally blossoms into its final maniacal form as Kurtz's fascination with the 'abomination' of primitive man comes to fruition. It is this self-centric attitude that allows Kurtz to sum up the experience of an individual; however, it is also this attitude that prevents him from seeing the connections between people-the way an individual's inner hollowness can be filled through his interactions with similarly hollow people-that redeem man.

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!