English-language films

Everyone in the world has something they aspire to become or dream of having. It is when people desire something beyond normal realms such as infinite wealth that their minds push them to the limits and make them commit savage deeds in order to achieve these dark desires. The theme ‘Consequences of human desire’ is expressed through the novel “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad’s characterization of Kurtz and especially that characters actions and the effect of their desires. In addition, Conrad presents it through the literary aspect of cause and effect.

This oral will examine how Conrad uses characterization and the aspect of cause and effect as foundations for both Kurtz’s doings and the consequences of his desire. This then ties into the fabrication of the foregrounding theme. Kurtz is constructed as a power hungry madman and this aspect of his characterization is shown through the actions he takes. Kurtz’s main process in gaining this wealth was to invade neighbouring tribes and force them to give up all their ivory and resources.

Those who reject him are killed and their heads placed on stakes outside his hut to serve as a reminder for those who dare to oppose him. Kurtz, so engulfed in his ravenous gluttony, was even willing to kill his right hand man in order to obtain his ivory as stated in this quote by the Russian young man, “He (Kurtz) declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country, because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased” (chapter 3 – pg.1).

These actions were also due to overexposure to the wilderness as Kurtz became unscrupulous. Lost in his own decisions, he places himself as the moral paradigm thus, in his own mind, reassuring what he does is right. Furthermore, by Kurtz’s actions, Conrad illustrates no matter where people are, they cannot lose sense of their conscience and let the thought of their desire take over their mind. By doing so, their actions become reckless and savage and do whatever it takes to satisfy their obsession but not caring by what means to obtain it.

Despite this, Kurtz’s actions alone contribute nothing to the overall theme. It is through the literary aspect of cause and effect that his actions are used as a cause/ploy to later turn against himself resulting in the effect of his own destruction. This then formulates the theme. Regardless of all of Kurtz’s horrific acts, it doesn’t go by without retribution as Kurtz is later characterised to become the effect of his actions and ultimately, his desires. The ploy set by Conrad through Kurtz’s actions comes into fruition as the author shows his consequences through his physical corrosion.

The turmoil in his soul was directly mirrored in his appearance and was expanding upon each of the previous verdicts he made in order to satisfy his desires. Marlow describes him “looking at least seven feet long… I could see the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his arm waving… I saw him open his mouth wide as though he had wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him” (Chapter 2 – pg. 21) By that time, Kurtz was going through hell.

Deep within himself, he begins to realize the horror he has done and tries to stop but his mind, so entangled with the thought of infinite wealth, could not. His desires and especially the guilt from those actions start to destroy him from the inside. This then leads to him falling ill. Conrad manipulates the deterioration of Kurtz’s body resulting from his actions, as an allegory for the dark desires within the human soul and what it would lead to. He shows how Kurtz let his obsession with monetary values take over and the savage deeds he commits in order to fulfil them.

This led Kurtz to take on the consequences which took a toll on his physical, emotional and mental state. Moreover, this feature pinnacles when Kurtz dies of his illness stating as his last words “the horror, the horror” (Chapter 3 – pg. 19) Conrad exemplifies that in the end, by satisfying such desires will get one nowhere and nothing. What used to be a human will remain an empty shell with nothing to hold onto by death. However, what will be known is the irreparable damage caused to others by letting a desire puppet one’s actions. This is the embodiment of Kurtz’s punishment.

Kurtz’s was not limited by any boundaries, his actions not restrained by any so he did all in his power to achieve those desires despite the damage he was causing to the natives and the land. Kurtz couldn’t stop and in the last moments of his life, he beared the price. Through the use of both his exploitations as the origin, the eventual demise as the outcome, in conjunction with Kurtz’s characterization as a foundation for these events, Conrad clearly exemplifies to the reader the theme “Consequences of human desire” through the literary aspect of cause and effect.

Nevertheless, is the reason behind his deed just to seek something of material gain or is it in the nature of being human, just to make these choices, witness the punishment and eventually learn from it? Through how the Conrad constructed his character and conveyed their sentences, a second chance was never offered. The real message may just have been that if people make a big enough mistake, there will be no second chance.

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