Throughout the book Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad consistently refers to heart of darkness, describing the people he encounters and the surroundings he is presented with. Through the novels numerous depictions of this, Conrad directs us to the thought that a heart of darkness or the inability to remain civilized lies in all humankind. Conard paints of picture of destruction and foolishness that turning over to evil can induce. He makes sure that the reader understands that conquering this evil requires individual restraint to keep in check. By using the concepts of unnecessary, insignificant, and absurd situations Conard is able to unearth his main idea. The absurdity of evil.
From the beginning of the book where they reach the Congo, to the end, Marlow is shown witnessing very irrational and meaningless situations. It demonstrates the idea of the intense choice between the lesser of two evils. Marlow is forced to decide between the hypocritical colonial bureaucracy or the mighty powerful Kurtz. As Marlow’s character is shown developing through the book he is shown to understand that in choosing any one of the choices would be an act of full foolishness. The absurdity of evil is presented through these irrelevant situations in many of his encounters: for instance he sees a man trying to put out fire with a bucket that had a hole in it, he watches native people explode hillsides for no particular reason at all, and notices a man-of-war ship of the coast firing shells into a thick jungle. ‘Another report from the cliff made me think suddenly of that ship of war I had seen firing into a continent. It was the same kind of ominous voice; but these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies. They were called criminals and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from over the sea. All their meager breasts painted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily up-hill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages.’ (Marlow 24). The symbolism of the “hole in the bucket” represents the futility of the company in Africa. It didn’t do much as the shed was bursting with cotton and exploded in high flames engulfing everything in it. “There a touch of insanity in the proceeding” (Conrad 21). This represents the burning of the company and the evil imperialism in the Congo.
As Marlow is able to see how savagery ingulfles the human mind and makes them do things in the sense of evil and absurdit and he starts to undermine his quest. Kurt’s is an unlawful and evil narcissist who Marlow shows deep obsession with. He is shown in the beginning of the novel as a living legend and is known for his powerful reputation. Unfortunately Kurts falls so far into savagery and darkness that he could not escape. ‘His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines.’ (Marlow 117). The evil of the human mind was shown to be overwhelming strong. Marlow witnesses this evil in both Kurtz and the civilization of savergy. As readers of the novel these senseless and unnecessary things that happen provide us with moral confusion, but also let us take away a brilliant theme of hidden darkness and what it can do to the human mind. As I was reading this novel I was quite puzzled with what the useless actions meant but was very delighted at the end in which I was able to put together the brilliant and hidden meanings behind Conrad’s exquisite novel.