This regard for the unnamed helmsman’s life. The

This particular passage highlights the
motif of Marlow’s obsession with Kurtz. This is prevalent throughout the entire
novel– starting at the moment that Kurtz is introduced, Marlow has desired to
meet this mysterious figure.  As Marlow
travels deeper into the Congo, his fixation becomes stronger and stronger. Marlow’s
more specific obsession with Kurtz’s voice is established when his native
helmsman is killed by a spear thrown from the riverbank. His death causes Marlow
to think that Kurtz must have also died in the attack, “I suppose Mr. Kurtz is dead as well by this time… For the moment that
was the dominant thought.” (Conrad, HOD). Seeing how this was the dominant
thought that occupied Marlow’s mind, he shows very little regard for the unnamed
helmsman’s life. The man is inconsequential in comparison to what Kurtz means
for Marlow. He quickly forgets about the death as thoughts of never meeting
Kurtz overtakes his mind again. “There
was a sense of extreme disappointment, as though I had found out I had been
striving after something altogether without a substance. I couldn’t have been
more disgusted if I had traveled all this way for the sole purpose of talking
with Mr. Kurtz.” In this line of thought, Marlow tells the reader that the
act of talking to Kurtz is the most important driving factor in his journey. He
experiences sorrow and disappointment while thinking of the meeting he’ll never
have. The paragraph continues as Marlow realizes this, “Talking with. . .  I … became
aware that that was exactly what I had been looking forward to—a talk with
Kurtz. I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, you
know, but as discoursing. I didn’t say to myself, ‘Now I will never see him,’
or ‘Now I will never shake him by the hand,’ but, ‘Now I will never hear him.’
The man presented himself as a voice.” Marlow was not looking forward about
seeing Kurtz face to face, or shaking his hand, rather he is keener on hearing
Kurtz talk. Kurtz only exists to Marlow as a voice, which develops the image of
him as a spiritual guidance for Marlow. Because of his deep fixation, hearing
Kurtz speak has become the destination of his journey. Marlow’s voice is vital
in developing the narrative of the book, and in this sense, the way readers
listen to Marlow parallels how Marlow listens to Kurtz’s voice. Conrad drives
this point home, showing that without the language of discourse, these
characters and their stories would not exist.

In the majority of the novel, Marlow
doesn’t meet Kurtz but only hears Kurtz’s voice via other people’s thoughts and
stories. “Not of course that I did not
connect him with some sort of action. Hadn’t I been told in all the tones of
jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen
more ivory than all the other agents together?” When other people talk
about Kurtz, they characterize him as an admirable and very successful ivory
agent, despite the immoral ways he goes about obtaining it. However, all the
tales of his success means little to Marlow compared to what he believes Kurtz
has to say. “That was not the point. The
point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one
that stood out pre-eminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence,
was his ability to talk” Although he has heard a lot about all the wild
things Kurtz has done, he is more intrigued by the way he thinks Kurtz speaks. “his words—the gift of expression, the
bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the
pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an
impenetrable darkness.” The idea of light and dark couples with Kurtz’s
charisma and deceit. His words can either be interpreted as good and illuminating
to some, or as a flow of deceit and lies
originating from the “heart of darkness”, demonstrating that Kurtz is a dark
voice. The alternating shades of light and dark suggests the good and evil of white
Europeans vs the natives; embodied by Kurtz’s double-natured reputation as both
a godlike and corrupt being. 

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