This particular passage highlights themotif of Marlow’s obsession with Kurtz. This is prevalent throughout the entirenovel– starting at the moment that Kurtz is introduced, Marlow has desired tomeet this mysterious figure. As Marlowtravels deeper into the Congo, his fixation becomes stronger and stronger. Marlow’smore specific obsession with Kurtz’s voice is established when his nativehelmsman is killed by a spear thrown from the riverbank. His death causes Marlowto think that Kurtz must have also died in the attack, “I suppose Mr. Kurtz is dead as well by this time… For the moment thatwas the dominant thought.” (Conrad, HOD). Seeing how this was the dominantthought that occupied Marlow’s mind, he shows very little regard for the unnamedhelmsman’s life.
The man is inconsequential in comparison to what Kurtz meansfor Marlow. He quickly forgets about the death as thoughts of never meetingKurtz overtakes his mind again. “Therewas a sense of extreme disappointment, as though I had found out I had beenstriving after something altogether without a substance. I couldn’t have beenmore disgusted if I had traveled all this way for the sole purpose of talkingwith Mr. Kurtz.
” In this line of thought, Marlow tells the reader that theact of talking to Kurtz is the most important driving factor in his journey. Heexperiences sorrow and disappointment while thinking of the meeting he’ll neverhave. The paragraph continues as Marlow realizes this, “Talking with. . .
I … becameaware that that was exactly what I had been looking forward to—a talk withKurtz. I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, youknow, 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 aboutseeing Kurtz face to face, or shaking his hand, rather he is keener on hearingKurtz talk. Kurtz only exists to Marlow as a voice, which develops the image ofhim as a spiritual guidance for Marlow.
Because of his deep fixation, hearingKurtz speak has become the destination of his journey. Marlow’s voice is vitalin developing the narrative of the book, and in this sense, the way readerslisten to Marlow parallels how Marlow listens to Kurtz’s voice. Conrad drivesthis point home, showing that without the language of discourse, thesecharacters and their stories would not exist. In the majority of the novel, Marlowdoesn’t meet Kurtz but only hears Kurtz’s voice via other people’s thoughts andstories. “Not of course that I did notconnect him with some sort of action. Hadn’t I been told in all the tones ofjealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolenmore ivory than all the other agents together?” When other people talkabout Kurtz, they characterize him as an admirable and very successful ivoryagent, despite the immoral ways he goes about obtaining it. However, all thetales of his success means little to Marlow compared to what he believes Kurtzhas to say. “That was not the point.
Thepoint was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the onethat 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 wildthings Kurtz has done, he is more intrigued by the way he thinks Kurtz speaks. “his words—the gift of expression, thebewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, thepulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of animpenetrable darkness.” The idea of light and dark couples with Kurtz’scharisma and deceit. His words can either be interpreted as good and illuminatingto some, or as a flow of deceit and liesoriginating from the “heart of darkness”, demonstrating that Kurtz is a darkvoice. The alternating shades of light and dark suggests the good and evil of whiteEuropeans vs the natives; embodied by Kurtz’s double-natured reputation as botha godlike and corrupt being.