Black Heart Essay, Research Paper
A Small Price to Pay
In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the seaman Marlow tells a big lie to Kurtz?s Intended. To Marlow ?[there] is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies – which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world – what I want to forget?. He hates and detests those who lie but lowers himself to doing it himself at the end of the novel. There are many reasons why he does this. Unlike the lies the Manager and the Brickmaker might tell to further their own selfish agendas, Marlow?s one lie serves to protect Kurtz and his Intended as well as to prevent the jungle?s darkness and evil from complicating the situation one last time. Marlow lies because he knows that the truth would cause more pain and complication than it is worth. He is ready to put this experience behind him and to move on with his life and he makes it easier for himself and the Intended by telling a lie. At the end of the Heart of Darkness, Marlow betrays his morals by telling a huge lie to Kurtz?s Intended in order to protect the Intended from the painful truth, to prevent the darkness of the jungle from having a prolonged effect, and to continue his own loyalty to Kurtz and protect Kurtz?s reputation that Marlow feels responsible to upkeep.
The first reason that Marlow lies is to protect the Intended?s vision of Kurtz. She insists that she knew him the best and that Kurtz needed her. The Intended states, ?I – I alone know how to mourn for him as he deserves?. She also tells that she ?believed in him more that any one on earth – more than his own mother, more than – himself. He needed me! Me?! Obviously Kurtz was very important to her. She mourns for over a year and still holds him as an idol. To her Kurtz was a great man who ?drew men towards him by what was best in them. . . . It is the gift of the great?. She never learns about the savagery to which Kurtz had resorted in the isolation and darkness of the jungle. Marlow is not about to ruin the Intended?s picture of Kurtz. When she asks what his final words were, Marlow responds by saying Kurtz spoke her name. If Marlow tells her the truth it would have been much harder for the Intended to take emotionally. Instead, Marlow allows her to keep her belief of what she thought Kurtz was. Marlow lies to the Intended to protect her from the wicked truth she may not be able to handle. He reasons, ?Hadn?t he said he wanted only justice? But I couldn?t. I could not tell her. It would have been to dark – too dark altogether?. By not knowing the savage Kurtz became, she may be able to move on and complete her mourning.
Marlow also lies to put the darkness of the experience behind himself. He no longer wants it to affect him. One of the reasons that Marlow goes to see the Intended in the first place is to finally gain a sense of closure from the experience. He had a need to ?give that [memory] up, too, to the past, in a way – to surrender personally all that remained of him with me to that oblivion which is the last word of our common fate?. Marlow refuses to let the darkness and the evil of the jungle keep a prolonged hold over his life. If he would have told the truth to the Intended it would have caused further complications. He would have had to see the effect the truth had on Kurtz?s intended and this may have affected Kurtz emotionally. He has just recovered from bitterness associated with this experience. Perhaps the upheaval of memories and feelings that would occur if he told the Intended the real truth, would cause him to once again plunge into bitterness. In order to prevent these complications from occurring, he tells a little lie and this effectively stops the complications from taking place.
Finally, the primary reason Marlow lies because of his duty to Kurtz. By becoming his caretaker during his last days, Marlow develops a sense of responsibility when it comes to Kurtz. He promises to upkeep the great and humanitarian reputation that Kurtz has in Europe and allows no outsiders to realize what the real Kurtz had become. When dealing with the Intended, Marlow avoids lying when he confirms to her that he died how he lived. He uses the Intended?s ignorance to bypass the truth because she has a positive view of Kurtz?s life. Marlow knows the real truth but there is no need to correct the Intended. However, he is forced to lie when he slips up and tells the Intended that ?I heard his very last words?. Marlow lies to protect Kurtz. If he would have told the Intended that Kurtz?s last were ?The horror, the horror?, this would be a breach of the responsibility that Marlow has to Kurtz. He would rather violate his own morals that tarnish Kurtz?s reputation. Marlow was fulfilling his responsibility to Kurtz that was induced by the immense loyalty he developed to him during his expedition. A lie was a small price to pay in order to protect Kurtz?s great yet false character.
Even though Marlow despises lying, he feels that telling a small lie is better than allowing the complications and realizations that the truth would bring. He maintains a stable situation in regards to the emotional state of the Intended and protects Kurtz. Marlow helps himself by completing the last task he must accomplish out of duty to Kurtz and finally will be able to put the entire experience behind himself. In order to accomplish these positive outcomes, he must tell a lie in order to avoid the worst outcomes. Marlow himself states, ?It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they have fallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justice which was due?? Marlow sees that through an insignificant lie he keeps the worst from occurring. Due to this, the situation remains stable and many people can finally put this experience behind themselves and move on. Marlow lies to protect the Intended, to prevent the darkness of the jungle from having a prolonged hold, and finally to protect Kurtz?s reputation from the humiliation that would be caused by the exposure of the truth.