Discuss the character of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness
Kurtz, "a universal genius", is a musician by profession. He also wrote for newspapers. Physically Kurtz "looked at least seven feet long." He had a family; his mother and his fiance. Kurtz wanted to earn money for his family. Therefore, he decided to join the Company and went to Africa. Marlow feels for Kurtz that he was poor enough to go out into that dark wilderness: "He had given me some reason to infer that it was his impatience of comparative poverty that drove him out there". Once in Africa, Kurtz had realized the importance of making money through ivory and it was not possible without savagery, a practice of the "torchbearers of Europe" that wanted to "exterminate all the brutes" for snatching ivory and making them work as slaves.
Kurtz is also a symbol of European plundering and loot in the heart of Africa, Congo. Kurtz roamed about and discovered villages and a lake "but mostly his expeditions had been for ivory". Kurtz had a "good lot of cartridges" and "he raided the country" and "Kurtz got the tribe to follow him" and "they adored him". Kurtz came to the natives "with thunder and lightning, you know-and they had never seen anything like it-and very terrible. He could be very terrible". The Russian tells that Kurtz had power and such a strong influence in the town that he could get anything that he liked. He was a king without crown: "there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased".
Kurtz is also represents the lust of wealth and the madness of European civilization which didn't spare its brotherly human races from its devilish plans. The Russian that nursed and served Kurtz during his illness was also not spared by him. The Russian reminds Marlow that "you can't judge Mr. Kurtz as you would an ordinary man". He tells him an instance of Kurtz' lust for ivory: "I had a small lot of ivory the chief of that village near my house gave me. You see I used to shoot game for them. Well, he wanted it, and wouldn't hear reason. He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country".
Kurtz is a victim of the clash between the new and the old. The "wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion". He further told Marlow that it seemed that the wilderness whispered to Kurtz and "the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core". Kurtz could not distinguish the difference between truth and reality. He went after ivory, the shadow, and forgot of the real happiness of life which existed merely in living peacefully with nature. So, if Kurtz was caught by lust of his inner darkness, he was also captured by the gloomy revenge of the outer wilderness.
Kurtz is the truth of which is discovered by Marlow while Kurtz was unable to ascertain the reality of his own being; he seemed to have understood it very late though. The truth forced Kurtz to go back into the village by leaving the rescue boat of Marlow. His attempt failed because Marlow followed him in this savage and dreadful night: "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". Marlow brought him back but he could not bring back his soul, his yearning and his will of staying back in the dark of Congo: "You are interrupting my plans now... I will return. I...."