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VIII- HD- Mr Kurtz. 
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Thank you George and DWill.

I have been thinking about how easy it is to fall into corruption - it is easy to let go and fall.....like Kurtz.....but hard to climb towards enlightenment. We need to keep a vision in our minds of the enobling of our human nature.

Now, I don't know if I read this....in H G Wells's short story - 'The Country of the Blind', or whether it was in Albert Camus's, 'The Salt People' short story....I know both were wonderful short stories..about a person with an extra piece of knowledge who goes to live among those who do not have that extra piece. At the time it seemed to me, a metaphore for Jesus.....but now I can see it as just humanity and the process of evolution.

I will have to go and read your post again, because there were two things I wanted to comment on.....now I can't remember what the other thing was...... :sad: be back in a minute....



Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:56 pm
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Please Miss, George said:-

But is what happens to Kurtz a descent or an actualization? Do we really think Kurtz lost himself in Africa? Isn't it really the case that there, removed from all restraints, he was free to act in accordance with his own basic nature?


Kurtz (and apparently Conrad) did go to the Congo for base purposes...I hate to labour the point....but the seeking of Ivory (or Gold) is a base purpose. Not all of our Colonialists went with such base purposes...some when to trade for something useful.....some went for their Christian beliefs...and I am not saying that this turned out all sweetness and light...but it was at root a noble purpose...and I should tell you I have a friend in Tamil Nadu in Southern India - who is grateful for the Victorian missionaries going there, because they set up colleges and churches. He is now a Professor of Zoology and tells me that he would have been a 'climber of palm trees' to get coconuts if the 'Welsh' missionaries had not gone there and set up the University.

So let us not run ourselves down completely.......the missionaries...some of them....went for selfless reasons. And it can't have been only the East India Tea Company who showed beneficial results to the indigenous people.

Of course, we did not colonise India did we. We 'The British Empire' did not do bad things everywhere.....some were beneficial to the 'natives'....or do some of you erudite people know better? Tell Me.



Thu Feb 21, 2008 2:10 pm
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Quote:
Penelope wrote:

Quote:
The one thing that didn't much work for me was the story about Mr Kurtz. I did not feel much anticipation before meeting him, and then even less seemed to be revealed than I had ancipated.
Perhaps this is an element in the book I need to go back to.

Ophelia, I agree with you absolutely - Kurtz was supposed to be this tremendously charismatic character....but Conrad did not convey this in his (wonderful) writing. So Why? He knew what he was doing....I am sure....now why did he write Kurtz like this? Was it perhaps to show us the shallowness of 'Glamour'? We can all sit around nodding in agreement - which doesn't achieve anything - and we can become blinded by 'public opinion' - 'spin doctoring' - 'media rhetoric' - could this be why he gave us such a tenuous picture of this character?



Did you also think the pages when we finally meet Mr Kurtz are disappointing?


Do you agree with Penelope?

Could it be that Conrad planned this to be an anticlimax?


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Thu Feb 21, 2008 4:25 pm
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Penelope and Ophelia,

I felt as I think you did--a sense of anti-climax in the long-awaited appearance of Kurtz. Marlow just doesn't show us much about Kurtz, rather he tells us over and over what a profound effect Kurtz had on him. Marlow says to his audience that it's impossible really to convey what any experience is like on the inside, especially such a weird experience as his in the jungle with Kurtz. So he just asks his listeners to accept on faith that Kurtz had this enormous power. He says that Kurtz's power resided in his voice, which of course he couldn't convey in his story. It seems that Conrad might have calculated that to keep Kurtz shadowy was the best way to ensure that he would be seen as a mysterious force, while to really portray him by his speech would have exposed how impossible it is to substantiate what Marlow sees in Kurtz. I think it might have been a tough choice for C to make.

The relationship between Kurtz and Marlow, and Marlow's whole fascination with Kurtz, are an enigma for me. (For example, why does he sees Kurtz's last words as a victory for Kurtz and admire K. for being able to say them?) The means for me to understand it might well be there, but I haven't found them. Conrad packs his prose pretty densely.

One thing I really like about the novella is its quality of absurdity. The intro to my edition said that Conrad anticipated modernism. The absurd nature of Marlow's experience could be an aspect of modernism. We have the clerk with his starched collars in the middle of the jungle, the "pilgrims" with their staves, the Russian sailor with his parti-colored costume, the two women in black knitting in the antechamber like Greek Fates (I guess). And then there is Marlow's being joined with Kurtz, something he doesn't understand but accepts as his fate. Taking charge of Kurtz, being loyal to him even, is "the nightmare of my choice," where any course of action would be a nightmare. Marlow seems impelled by forces he doesn't understand, right up to visiting Kurtz's Intended. Whether this all works is up to the reader to decide.

I think I can understand why Marlow does not level with the Intended. Earlier in the story he flashed forward to that scene and said the difference between Kurtz's world and the Intended's was just too great, and that the reality of Kurtz would be shattering to her; there was just no point in disillusioning her. At this point in the novella, by the way, Marlow, still affected by illness, appears almost psychotic (voices, hallucinations).

Sorry to run on!

Will



Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:31 am
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DWill wrote:

Quote:
One thing I really like about the novella is its quality of absurdity. The intro to my edition said that Conrad anticipated modernism. The absurd nature of Marlow's experience could be an aspect of modernism. We have the clerk with his starched collars in the middle of the jungle, the "pilgrims" with their staves, the Russian sailor with his parti-colored costume, the two women in black knitting in the antechamber like Greek Fates (I guess).


Thanks again for your input Will.

Perhaps we can discuss the notion of the absurd in HD, what you wrote in the quote above does appeal to me.

You also remind me that I haven't yet read the introduction given in the Penguin Edition of the novella, so I'll go back to it.


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Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:48 am
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DWill said:-


And then there is Marlow's being joined with Kurtz, something he doesn't understand but accepts as his fate. Taking charge of Kurtz, being loyal to him even, is "the nightmare of my choice," where any course of action would be a nightmare. Marlow seems impelled by forces he doesn't understand, right up to visiting Kurtz's Intended. Whether this all works is up to the reader to decide.

I think I can understand why Marlow does not level with the Intended. Earlier in the story he flashed forward to that scene and said the difference between Kurtz's world and the Intended's was just too great, and that the reality of Kurtz would be shattering to her; there was just no point in disillusioning her. At this point in the novella, by the way, Marlow, still affected by illness, appears almost psychotic (voices, hallucinations).

Sorry to run on!


Starting at the end of this quote and working backwards, as is my way.....

Please, please don't apologise for running on.....This is a most interesting post.

I can't see any excuse for Marlow telling such a lie.....to The Intended...
It is, unforgivable IMO.

Oddly, on another thread, I am having a conversation with Frank.....about the person of Jesus.....and in fact it looks as though all my life I have been having the same relationship with the Jesus person, as the Intended had with Kurtz.....believe me....I am glad to be told the truth.
In fact, that phrase 'the Nightmare of my choice' is very meaningful.

How odd, that such a short novel, when looked at in depth....brings forth such food for the intellect. It is certainly addressing psychological/philosophical issues in my life just now. Fortunately, I am rediscovering my sense of humour on this. Now, the Intended was not endowed with a sense of humour by Conrad......perhaps that is what is missing in this, otherwise wonderful book.

Please continue to contribute.....your posts, unlike my own, are incisive.

I wish Frank could read this.....and discuss it with us.....are you there Frank?
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Mon Feb 25, 2008 10:21 am
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Penelope wrote:

I used to write letters to Governments and Influencial people about certain political prisoners....then...one evening I went to a meeting where the guest speaker was from Argentina....(just as it happens..Argentina),

He said, not in so many words, but he said, 'Will you stop writing letters and drawing attention to these individuals....because when you do they just get 'disappeared'.


Ok, what do I know? Nothing of course. Speaking as an active AI member, but only my own opinion: Your speaker was an apologist. Argentina, or any of these other places, are more likely to make someone 'disappear' if they know no one is watching. If they know there will be little or no complaint, then they have free hand. I think this speaker was trying to wrestle the power that you have in that situation out of your hands. And they apparently succeeded. AI goes out of their way NOT to send letters in cases where the attention will be negative to the persons involved. Do they succeed 100% of the time? Of course not. But really: get back on the AI bandwagon. You have done nothing wrong. Covering up only protects the guilty.

Free advice guaranteed to be worth at least what you paid for it! ;-)



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Thanks for that post Ginof:

I do think I said later in the post in question....that although this happening took my breath away for awhile and I sat with my head in my hands for sometime. I did get up again and carry on......

I was using it as an example of doing the 'wrong thing for the right reasons' - but I was not advocating 'doing nothing at all'. ;-)



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Ophelia,
This might be too literal an answer, but I suppose we could say that the Intended was not really deceived by the Kurtz she knew, because to that point he hadn't been captured by powers of darkness. He might have been full of malarkey about the noble mission to the Africans, but it was malarkey she wanted to believe, too.

For me, it's not so much a matter of whether M. is right in not telling the I. the truth. I'm just putting myself in his place and saying I'm 100% sure I wouldn't have told her either. And it may be rationalizing, but I consider this to be one of those ethical situations where we say that lying may be okay. I still would be inclined to credit Marlow with the honesty he claims to have in the passage you pointed out earlier (something about his hating the rotten smell of a lie). What the Europeans are really about in Africa, vs. what they claim as the purpose of their mission, is the most rotten lie floating about.



Mon Mar 03, 2008 9:42 pm
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Thanks DWill - that is a lucid summing up.

I am sure I would not have told the intended the raw truth either, but I don't think I would have made anything up and said, her name was the last thing on his lips.

There are ways of softening the truth..... I would have said he was delirious.....and raving.....which would have been the truth...just not the whole truth.

Obviously, I am much more devious that Marlowe!!! :twisted:



Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:33 am
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Post What did Marlow really say about Kurtz?
I've just re-read some pages from the third part of the novella, and it seems that admiration for Kurtz comes from people like the Russian sailor, not from the narrator, Marlow.

I'll go back to the quotation from Will's postings I used at the beginning of this thread:

Quote:
Achebe may also be right about Kurtz being a hollow figure and in no way worthy of the awe that Marlow shows for him. Big deal, Kurtz goes nuts and loses all his fine principles. He ends up a mass murderer who may discover what a bad character he was upon his own death. Marlow tells us over and over about Kurtz's effect on him, but he does little showing of Kurtz's supposed magnificence. It's hard to see any tragic quality in Kurtz that would so affect Marlow



p 81: "It (the wildnerness) echoed wildly within him because he was hollow at the core..."

"The admirer of Mr Kurtz was a bit crestfallen"

"I suppose it did not occur to him that Mr Kurtz was no idol of mine."

Also, there is a marked lack of reverence on hearing Kurtz's last words:

"The horror, the horror!"

is immediately followed by "I blew the candle out and left the cabin".

Then Marlow calmly joined the pilgrims at their supper.


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Post Marlow's moral principles.
Marlow's moral principles.


I see the narrator is a European of his time, but still some remarks of Marlow's give food for thought:

p 80 (he has just seen the shrunken heads on posts)
:
"In fact the manager said afterwards that Mr Kurtz's methods had ruined the district. I have no opinion on that point, but I want you to understand there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him-- some small matter which..." (emphasis mine).

The phrase in bold characters reminds me of things I read about the hypocrisy of the Victorians about their moral values, such as the suggestion that in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mr Hyde might have been acceptable if he had not entirely lacked restraint and hadn't caused the neighbours to complain.

So, to return to the quotation, does it suggest that if Mr Kurtz had "gratified his various lusts" with more restraint (though I wonder whether some of them were compatible with restraint) and appearances had been saved, Marlow would not have found fault with Kurtz?

Marlow certainly doesn't take the stance of the moralist here.
On the other hand, I don't detect any irony either.


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Ophelia,

You're exactly right about Marlow not having to tell the Intended such a whopper. I had ignored the fact that he could have dissembled without having really to lie. Those are nice quotes. I find it interesting that Marlow says Kurtz lacks a fundamental restraint and also is not really there at all in terms of having a settled character. He is hollow at the core, so the wilderness can just move in and, well, colonize him. Doesn't Marlow say elsewhere (too lazy to track it down) that the other pilgrims would not be susceptible to the Kurtz syndrome because they lack imagination, have an imperviousness to them? But it is not a quality that Marlow admires in them. So, maybe ambivalence could be the best description of M's attitude about K.



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You almost get the feeling that Marlow is saying - it was OK to perpetrate these barbaric acts so long as one showed a bit of restraint.

....there was something lacking......he (Kurtz) was not quite 'the gentleman'.

Of course it is OK to shoot elephants, to chase foxes and deer with hounds, to shoot game.....etc., so long as you are 'a gentleman'.

Bear Bating and Cock fighting - were frowned upon as barbaric because they weren't 'gentlemens' sports, they were the sports of the proletariat. It is interesting to note that these two sports have been banned, but not the former.

Double standards???

No standards at all?

Right, I will now descend from my soap-box. :oops:



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Australian ABC Radio National is presenting a reading of Heart of Darkness at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bookreading/ that is well worth picking up on the podcast. Listening to episode one today, it is so interesting how Conrad prepares for the encounter with Kurtz, and places the story within a story where a game of dominos might be as interesting for the sailors as listening to this meditation on Europe in Africa. Kurtz, it is noted at the start, is an agent of the imperial power, whom we learn is Leopold, the King of Belgium. As an agent, Kurtz does the bidding of his master, but Leopold was not to know that his commercial enterprise would live in infamy as an archetype of imperial madness. Kurtz was the effective instrument of this madness, much as the American troops in Vietnam were instruments of a similar later imperial madness. Leopold caused to occur the circumstances in which Kurtz applied his nihilistic quest for ivory. Kurtz is like a puppet on some very jerky strings pulled from Brussels initially, and then replaced by some wilder absence of a puppeteer after the strings are attenuated. Marlon Brando captures this psychological turmoil for Kurtz when he meets the visitors in Apocalypse Now. He has been sent to do a job, but the job is crazy, he is well able to do it at the expense of his soul, and he is almost like a lost whimpering boy ready to be taken home.



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