Analysis of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness and the Character of Mr. Kurtz

One of the most perceptive books of the 19th century is Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad's book is a philosophical investigation into what motivates excellence in people. Marlow, the main character, is thought to be the author's alter personality. The most intriguing aspect of the novel, however, is the character of Mr. Kurtz, an inactive character. Kurtz's ability to stay unaffected by his surroundings calls for a character analysis.

Charismatic Nature of Mr. Kurtz

Mr. Kurtz is portrayed in Heart of Darkness as being both good and wicked. He is therefore a guy with contradictory traits. To begin with, Kurtz is presented to be charismatic. His ability to amass and command the African armies in the Jungle is a reflection of his charismatic nature. Mr. Kurtz is able reign in on the hostility that is extended by the Africans towards the White foreigners and uses his charisma to draw more ivory from Africa to his company in Europe (Guven 84). This is a reflection of a charismatic individual who is able to appeal to people’s loyalty and commitment. As a charismatic individual is one who is able to appeal to the interests and reasoning of others in the society to do his bidding. His charisma is also projected in his ability to appeal to the Company’s chief accountant. The Chief accountant predicates that Mr. Kurtz is “a very remarkable person” (Conrad 28). The company, given his charisma, tasks him with a duty that comprises the most important mission to the company. Mr. Kurtz is referred to as an “exceptional man” (Conrad 35). His charisma is also shown when everyone in the company is worried about Kurtz’ health when they learn that he might be sick. His fiancée later describes him as a man who was likeable and admirable and this is a consequence of his charisma. She establishes that “it was impossible to know him and not admire him” (Conrad 125). Essentially, his charm provides the most appealing tool to people who have been in contact with him. His Belgian cousin defines him a great musician.

Ambition of Mr. Kurtz

Similarly, Mr. Kurtz is shown to be ambitious. Ambitious individuals commit themselves to their goal and make it their priorities to grow within their circles. Mr. Kurtz’s actions were all geared towards becoming the best agent that the company ever had (Guven 83). This initiative would reinforce his indispensability in the company and thus hasten his climb through the ranks of the organization. The company accountant remarks at Kurtz’s ambition by determining that Kurtz “will go far, very far.” (Conrad 29). He further establishes that Kurtz “will be somebody in the Administration before long” (Conrad 29). Essentially, on reaching Africa, Kurtz quickly discerns the opportunities that are available to him and thus commits to command the loyalty of the natives through all means possible: an initiative which negates the principles that were set forth by the company with regards to the interactions between the Europeans in Africa and the natives. Mr. Kurtz’ ambition sees him inspire the general manager’s ire given his increasing influence within the company. Thus the general manager makes it a priority to negate Kurtz’ progress in the company by plotting his downfall. This countenance is a culmination of the fear that Kurtz’ ambition inspires in the employees within the company.

Eloquence and Manipulation of Mr. Kurtz

Additionally, Kurtz’ ambition is augmented by his eloquence (Zhao 149). He is a man who recognizes the immensity of his words and uses them to further his own ambitions. In Africa, contrary to the dictations of the company, Kurtz increasingly interacts with the natives which enables him to command their trust and thus furthering his efforts to acquire ivory for the company. His eloquence is further brought to light when he is tasked with the compilation of a report for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs. Maslow establishes that he had read the report and “it was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence” (Conrad 82). Kurtz’ eloquence inspires the people around him to act in ways that untimely promote his individual goals. In his final moments of life, is eloquence is defined as that which was “withering to one’s belief in mankind” (Conrad 111). Ultimately, his eloquence and ambition leads to his down fall in the hands of the savages.

Impetuosity, Deception, and Manipulation of Mr. Kurtz

Mr. Kurtz is impetuous and unrestrained. His ambition obscures his rationality and an it is this factor that leads to his demise. His soul is described a s one which knew “no restraint, no faith and no fear” (Conrad 111). Essentially, h acted in ways that would immediately mitigate the given situation at the time. Mr. Maslow describes Kurtz as a man who lacked “restraint in the in the gratification of his various lusts” (Conrad 11). Overall, the character would go to any lengths to ensure that his will was imposed. There was a lack of restraint in Kurtz which would be manifested when he was pressed for time and could not be aided by his eloquence. Alternatively, Mr. Kurtz is deceptive and manipulative. Whereas, initially he had set out on a philanthropic course in the heart of the jungle, he soon deceives the natives into doing his bidding. They attack on his behalf and event protect him form other marauding groups. His deceptive character allows him the freedom to present different facades to different people. He engages a character that appeals to each individual separately in order to earn their admiration. Kurtz is able to front different characters depending on the situation and the individual that he is interacting with. His cousin knows Kurtz as a great musician while he presents the image of an efficient and experienced politician to the journalist (Zhao 149). To his fiancée, he presents the image of an accomplished man with a generous heart. He assumes the image of a philanthropic individual who is out to further the interests of the natives. Nonetheless, this is not true as his expedition was intended to benefit the company through the increased exports of ivory and resources from the African Jungle.


Conclusively, Mr. Kurtz is presented to be a man who wears many hats in the novel Heart of the Darkness. He is ambitious and driven. He makes it his priority to ensure maximum ivory is reaped from the jungle to benefit his ascent in the company. He further manipulates, through eloquence and charisma, the natives to do his bidding in the jungle. Consequently, they extend him loyalty and trust and even attack the animals and his enemies on his behalf. His lack of restraint provides the major barrier to his progress. He is an impetuous individual with a knack for violence, an aspect that significantly erodes the sanctity of his character as a successful manager and leader.

Works Cited

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness . Dover Publications , 1990.

Guven, Samuet. "Post-Colonial Analysis of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Journal of History, Culture and Art Research 2.2 (2013): 79-86.

Zhao, Jiping. "The Tragedy of Kurtz: An Analysis of Kurtz In Heart of Darkness." Asian Social Science 4.6 (2008): 148-150.

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