Kurtz as Satan Free Essay Example
There was a reason that European colonizers were nick-named the “white devils. ” They slithered their way in like serpents and turned the known world of the natives into a world of chaos. Every white settler was a Satan in his own way. Mr. Kurtz, a leading character in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the prime example of the white devils in Africa, following the pattern set out by John Milton for a perfect Prince of Darkness in Paradise Lost in his portrayal of Satan to a point.
Their characteristics and motivations are paralleled in almost every sense, differing only in the backdrop and in the ends that these characters meet.
Once the similarities between Satan and Mr. Kurtz start, they never seem to end. It’s as though Conrad clicked copy and paste and saved the image under a new file name. Both began as angels of their world, Satan as Lucifer aspiring to dethrone God and become the ultimate power himself, and Kurtz as a genius of his society, being remembered as a prominent musician, politician, and humanitarian.
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But we all know that both Satan and Kurtz are far from the benevolent followers of the light; rather they are the evils that exist in our world.
Satan is the template for the devil incarnate we see in the Kurtz that exists in the depths of the Congo, who is in turn an embodiment of all the evils created by free enterprise. Kurtz and Satan are presented as highly gifted individuals, advanced thinkers with silver tongues ready to bend you to their will.
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Their downfall is that they are devoured by their own greed that overpowers their original, good purpose in life. The similarities begin with their journey to their present condition: both are tempted by a forbidden fruit, attempt to become god, experience a fall from grace, and are swallowed by the darkness.
Originally called Lucifer, Satan is the rogue angel damned to suffer for his sins against God. His forbidden fruit is the temptation of being as omnipotent and omniscient as God and experiences a literal fall from the grace of God in his defeat. Satan is mislead by his own ambition to believe that he too could be God. “Him the Almighty Power Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky with hideous ruin and combustion down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell In adamantine chains and penal fire, Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms. ” Satan falls into Hell, where he festers with his hate and fallen angels.
Kurtz is Africa’s Satan, who’s forbidden fruit is ivory, drawing him away from the rules of civilization and creating a monster that feeds on fulfilling that one job, no matter the consequences. Kurtz has no restrain in his actions, having been consumed by the chaotic darkness that surrounds him and that he becomes a reflection of. His fall from grace comes in the form of the manager and all others on the rescue expedition despising him. They realize his flawed methods and his lost mind and are disgusted by him. Kurtz falls away from the rules of civilization into the darkness of the jungle and all of its chaos.
He presents himself as a god to the natives, who are awed by Kurtz’s magnificence and become his devoted followers, his own fallen angels. There, in the deepest pits of the jungle, those demonic and primitive people and their god partake in hellish rituals and orgies, taking all of the ivory they want without hesitation, living as they please. This is especially shown when we hear from the harlequin that Kurtz threatened to shoot him for his ivory, “because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased. At this point Marlow realizes that Kurtz, like Satan, has lost control of his faculties in his coveting, stealing ways. The similarities between Kurtz and Satan continue in their environments and how they feel about being lost souls. Though their worlds are nowhere near the same in the physical sense, both exist in a wasteland that has consumed them, a place that sucks the humanity right out of them. When we meet both of these characters in each of their stories, they are both suck in their wasteland with no way out, leading every fiber of their being to reflect their wasteland.
Satan’s wasteland is literally his own personal Hell, a place of brimstone and fire, described by Milton as A dungeon horrible on all sides round As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Served only to discover sights of woe, Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell, hope never comes That comes to all; but torture without end Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed With ever-burning sulfur unconsumed,” Satan chooses to love is wasteland, saying comments “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven,” He commits his entire existence to thwarting the good deeds of God, saying evil has become his good. Satan has no restraint in releasing his hatred of God in as many ways as possible, his revenge consumes him in every sense and diseases his mind. Kurtz, however, does not verbally commit to loving his wasteland; instead he yields to it, at times accepting it and at times hating it. He exists in his wasteland as a decomposed angel of light, changed by his surroundings.
Marlow once commented on man’s “fascination with abomination,” and that is shown in the most blatant sense in Kurtz. Kurtz surrounds his house with shriveled heads on stakes, partakes in tribal rituals, and ruthlessly seeks ivory from every source imaginable. And just like a god figure, Kurtz believe that he possesses everything he lays his eyes on. “My Intended, my station, my career, my ideas-” But Kurtz is mislead by his own ambition and lack of restraint, not realizing that he actually belongs to that which holds the power over him: the ivory, whose “powers of darkness have claimed him for their own. Kurtz has become a prince of darkness in the Hell that lies deep in the heart of Africa with a mind equally as diseased as Satan’s. Another major similarity if Satan and Kurtz are their voices, which play a huge part in how both characters are presented. Both are the very definition of silver-tongued devils, using their words to persuade an audience to love them, to revere their ideas, to cling to every word that drips out of their mouths, and to justify their amorality and evil. Throughout the rest of Paradise Lost, Satan is presented in a way that makes it hard not to sympathize with him.
His words make up so much of the text and are so captivating, but he is so dangerous that his words are like poison to the mind. Kurtz’s words act in a similar fashion, infecting Marlow’s and the harlequin’s mind, entrancing them, leading them to forget his other dastardly deeds. But both authors’ purposes in having such prominent eloquence is to draw us in, let us believe evil is okay, then show is our flaws and make us guilty for our sinful thoughts and ways. Both characters serve the same purpose of outlining the flaws of man in the works they reside in.
Satan embodies all of the temptation and malice that resides deep in our minds, begging to be called forth and claim all that we wish to be ours. He is revenge and jealousy and greed all rolled into a neat package with wings and destructive tendencies. Similarly, Kurtz shows us what happens when we act on those temptations, especially in a world with no constraints. Kurtz’s very soul is corrupted when we meet him; he no longer has a moral compass that points North but rather a compass like Jack Sparrow’s that points in the direction of whatever he wants most.
Marlow pondered that “Mr. Kurtz lacked restrain in the gratification of these various lusts, that there was something wanting in him- some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. ” Luckily for Kurtz, he and Satan diverge soon after. Kurtz has a rescuer, someone to pull him from the depths of his own depravity and bring him back into the light, while Satan is left to rot in his own self-pity and anger. The fact that Kurtz his a savior also leads to the second difference between Satan and Kurtz: penitence.
Kurtz realizes the hideousness of what he has become, the vile place that he has come to reflect and his monstrous behavior. In short, he sees all of the Hell that he just left behind, realizes all of the foul thing he has done, and feels immense remorse and disgust for all that he has become, which he sums up in four weighty words:”The horror! The horror! ” Conrad writes Kurtz to have this realization to show that even after a man sins his life into the deepest pit of Hell, he can repent and be forgiven. Satan, however, will have none of this.
Starkly contrasting Kurtz, he proclaims his love for all of these repellant things, crying out “Farewell happy fields, where joy forever dwells! Hail horrors! hail, Infernal world! ” Milton condemns Satan to a lifetime of hate and hopeless fury. The similarities between Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Mr. Kurtz of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness paint a beautiful picture of what a good evil figure really ought to be, clearly reflecting man’s flaws, then reminding us that there is that small piece of hope for humanity in the very end. With
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