The infinite battle between good and evil can destroy, refine, or rebuild the human soul by means of choice. However, good is stronger than evil and someday, the power of good will dominate. In the novel Heart of Darkness, Conrad illustrates pure evil and its capability to consume one’s soul. The title Heart of Darkness symbolizes the true evil in man, the improper use of knowledge and the downfall of civilization.
“I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire; but by all stars! These were strong, lusty, red-eyed devils, that swayed and drove men—men, I tell you.” (Conrad, 81). Violence, greed and passionate desires are elements that help unleash the evil that lurks in man, which symbolizes the Heart of Darkness. The character change of Kurtz is an example of this evil. Kurtz is first describe as “a very remarkable person” by the accountant. “Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of a trading post, a very important one, in the ivory-country,… Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together.” (Conrad, 84)
However, when Kurtz experience power, greed overcomes him and he uses his intelligence and violence to accomplish his passionate desire. “ He is an emissary of pity and science and progress; and devil knows what else.” (Conrad, 92). It is believed that there is evil in everyone and it can be triggered by mere stupidity of man. The evil in Kurtz is unleashed because he choose his deep desires for ivory and did not look ahead in the future of what will become of him. Consequently, his soul is consumed for eternal damnation. “The improper use of knowledge is another example that symbolizes the Heart of Darkness. One of Kurtz’s advantages is his deep voice and his ability to speak.
That man could talk. He electrified large meetings. He had faith-don’t you see? –he had the faith. He could get himself to believe anything-anything. He would have been a splendid leader of an extreme party.” (Conrad, 151)
Kurtz used his knowledge about the weather and his power of speech to manipulate the natives into believing that he was a god.
“He was not afraid of the natives; they would not stir till Mr. Kurtz gave the word. His ascendancy was extraordinary. The camps of these people surrounded the place, and the chiefs came everyday and they would crawl… ‘I don’t want to know anything of the ceremonies used when approaching Mr. Kurtz,’ I shouted. Curious, this feeling that came over me that such details would be more intolerable than those heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz’s windows.” (Conrad, 133)
Similarly, the Biblical myth of Adam and Eve, the serpent used its knowledge to tempt Eve to eat the apple from the Fruit of Knowledge, which condemn them from paradise. The improper use of knowledge leads to Heart of Darkness because the knowledge that everyone has is for good purposes. A deadly punishment follows the misuse of this gift.
“What is in question in ‘Heart of Darkness’ is man’s fidelity to the general tradition of civilization.” (Bloom, 83). The downfall of civilization is also a symbolism of the Heart of Darkness. It is cause by greed and lust for power, expressed by violence in order to corrupt and conquers. Fresleven, “ a man who loses his life over a misunderstanding about two black hens” (Bloom, 84) is an example of the cause in corruption of civilization. He believes that the only way he can contain his power is by using brute force against the native chief. “He whacked the old nigger mercilessly, while a big crowd of his people watched him,… the chief’s son – in desperation at hearing the old chap yell, made a tentative jab with a spear at the white man…” (Conrad, 72). The downfall of civilization creates chaos, it destroys the many lives of the natives and it leads to the Heart of Darkness.
A person always has two significant choices, good and bad. The novel, Heart of Darkness illustrates the outcome of these choices. The power of good always triumphs at the end, but the force of evil is unforgettable. It can be seen through the evil inside everyone, the improper use of knowledge, and the downfall of civilization. So, the battle between good and evil continues.