April 16, 2014
Restraint and Duty
In the Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad emphasizes the importance of restraint and duty within the protagonists, Marlow and Kurtz, and the cannibals, who happened to be the most civilized group in the Congo. Marlow believes in the importance of respect and the betterment of humanity. He is saved by this sense of control and responsibility while Kurtz is destroyed because he believes in evil. Kurtz was known as a respectful man but due to his loss of control within himself and the duty he owes to his workers he lost the respect once gained.
Marlow expected restraint in the Congo, despite his uneasiness and discomfort into going there. He anticipated the Company would have everything under control except it turned out to be the complete opposite to what he had hoped for upon his arrival in the Congo. “… I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of getup that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision.” (Conrad, 28)1 Marlow meets the Company’s chief accountant, who happens to be the only put-together person there. Marlow automatically respects the man because he is the only one so far who showed restraint. "Strings of dusty niggers with splay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire set into the depths of darkness, and in return came a precious trickle of ivory." (Conrad, 29) This shows the struggle that the African slaves have to go through just to get a little ivory. It shows that everyone only cares for the ivory and at this point would give up anything just to get their hands on some of the worshipped substance and they would give up anything for it, they would sacrificed cottons, beads, brass-wire sets, even people for a “trickle of ivory”.
Marlow sees that the cannibals practice restraint and duty as well. They happen to be the most civilized in the Congo and a form of examples within the darkness. “They were men one could work...