Heart Of Darkness Power Corruption

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John Dalberg-Acton once said in a famous quote, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But the corruption from said power can have many adverse effects on a person. Power can change how a person acts, feels, and their perception of themselves. But power can also alter how a person looks at and understands the world. Such is the case in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness is about Marlow, a worker for a European trading company, traveling down the Congo River to retrieve the ivory trader, Mr. Kurtz. Along the way Marlow witnesses the poor treatment of natives at the trade stations, the overall conditions of the trade stations, as well as hearing more and more about Kurtz, the man Marlow…show more content…
Kurtz left his life in Europe behind so that he could trade ivory on the Congo. However, when he got there, he set himself up as a god amongst the station natives, and began to associate his new found power with virtue. Kurtz believed that his decision to become a god amongst the natives was a virtuous act, and not just a means of getting more power (and ivory). When Marlow is getting Kurtz from the inner station, Kurtz pleaded to him “I was on the threshold of great things” (Conrad ). Kurtz confuses his power with virtue because he believed that his methods of getting by using his power to ivory (through killing and raiding), he was helping the company. Which comes in sharp contrast to the views of others within the company would state that he “has done more harm than good to the Company” (Conrad 71). Because of Kurtz’s power, how he views others begins to become warped. When Kurtz sends his assistant back up the river, he includes a note that says “Clear this poor devil out of the country” (Conrad 35). Kurtz compares himself to a god, and others who he has control over (such as his assistant) to the devil. The image of god is generally associated with virtue and positive qualities, whereas the devil is generally associated with corruption and negative qualities. Kurtz, a “god”, sees those who are below him as corrupt and immoral because they do not have the same power he does. But Kurtz’s status as a “god” has other effects on him. For example, Kurtz gains a corrupted sense of himself. When recounting a story about Mr. Kurtz, the station manager says "Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—' everything belonged to him." (Conrad 2.29). Kurtz sees himself as though he is as big as the wilderness he inhabits, which comes as a contrast to the other men’s sense of getting smaller when surrounded by
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