Restraint Restraint is a major idea in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Restraint constantly influences the decisions people make. Kurtz’s lack of restraint kills him, while Marlow’s restraint saves and prevents him from becoming like Kurtz. Kurtz is a man who “[kicks] himself loose of the earth” (Conrad, 61).
He does not have allegiance to anyone except to himself. Kurtz’s absence of restraint exists because he holds a lusty power in an un-civilized country.
Restraint is affected by three factors; power, lust, and his surroundings. Kurtz’s display of restraint is a prime example that exemplifies the affect of these three factors on restraint. Kurtz was not always the power hungry man portrayed in Conrad’s book. According to his Intended, Kurtz was an admired man who had a “generous heart” and a “noble mind” (Conrad, 70).
However, after his expedition into Africa, he became a changed man; an “insoluble problem” (Conrad, 50).
The new Kurtz “[kicks] the very earth to pieces” (Conrad, 61).
“Let us say – nerves, [go] wrong, and [causes] him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites” (Conrad, 45).
He has dropped all sense and morality and continues to live on according to his various lusts. Kurtz originally goes to Africa in order to earn a living by collecting ivory. His massive compilation of ivory exceeds those of the other men put together. Although the areas around the Inner Station are rich in ivory, Kurtz greedily collects ivory by means of force.
There are many themes that run through the novel Heart of Darkness. There are however two main and significant ones. These are the theme of restraint and mans journey into self. The importance of restraint is stressed throughout Heart of Darkness. In the novel Marlow is saved by restraint, while Kurtz is doomed by his lack of it. Marlow felt different about Africa before he went, because the ...
He eventually raids the areas around his station when he did not have anything to trade with. He discovers many villages and goes to them with “thunder and lightning” (Conrad, 51).
He uses guns in order to frighten the natives. Through fear, the natives grew to worship Kurtz.
He becomes leader of the villages; a deity. Unlike most foreigners, he does not have to adjust to his surroundings. Instead, the natives had to adapt to him. Kurtz exercises his power by conquering additional villages and even by executing people. “Exterminate all the brutes” (Conrad, 46)! Kurtz eliminates rebels who get in his way.
He slices off their heads and then displays them outside of his house. This serves as a warning to his people to not betray him. In a sense, Kurtz is at the top of the food chain. He has great power and uses it without restraint to satisfy his desires. After raiding villages and obtaining followers, Kurtz becomes very power hungry. He enjoys having power; compiling ivory and having worshipers.
He abuses his power without restraint. He has tried to return to the Central Station; however, his lust for power disables him from returning. Kurtz had apparently intended to return himself… but after coming three hundred miles, had suddenly decided to go back, which he started to do alone in a small dugout with four paddlers, leaving the half-caste to continue down the river with the ivory.
(Conrad, 28) Kurtz had come down to deliver his ivory, stopped, and turned back around; leaving other people to deliver the ivory. He has lost all good judgment and mainly follows his lusts. Kurtz had become, in a white man’s perspective, uncivilized and crazy. “Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things…
but also for humanizing, improving, instructing” (Conrad, 29).
The stations are centers for modernization and civilization. The farther Kurtz ventures away from the stations, the less civilized he becomes. Kurtz followed no rules. Civilization affects behaviors. The less civilized a country is, the less likely it is to have order.
Kurtz’s villages had no order and consequently, it was easy for Kurtz to grasp great power and take over. Also, there is less control in a place with less rules; explaining Kurtz’s outrageous actions. This book suggests that environment influent’s restraint. Kurtz is the one and only character that shows no restraint.
Women are a great part of society; women sometimes overpower men by their sexuality to gain power and control, which lead to constant battles for dominance. Nurse Ratched, and her matriarchy run the ward filled with mental patients. McMurphy, a new patient, uses the ward to escape from society and its rules. He soon realizes the power, Nurse Ratchet has established, and tries to break it. In the ...
Marlow, who has an obsession for Kurtz, did not become like Kurtz. Even the Cannibals on board do not overpower the whites and eat them. No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is… Don’t you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment… It takes a man his inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It’s really easier to face bereavement, dishonor, and the perdition of one’s soul – than this kind of prolonged hunger.
Sad, but true. And these chaps, too, had no earthly reason for any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just as soon have expected restraint from a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield (Conrad, 38).
Marlow admires the restraint of the Cannibals. Everybody has a natural desire to eat. The cannibal to whites ratio was thirty to five.
Why didn’t the cannibals eat the men? Because they had restraint even in the most desperate situation. The primitive cannibals exemplify more restraint than Kurtz. The restraint of the cannibals and Marlow exists because they are still in contact with civilization. There may have been a different story if the crew had been lost in the forest for months away from civilization.
Civilization does indeed influence an individual’s restraint. Kurtz, unlike most men, demonstrates such tremendous restraint lacking power that enables him to take over villages, obtain followers, and commit his other lusty actions. He holds the ravenous power to do what he desires in an uncivilized country. The lack of civilization itself provides a perfect environment for Kurtz to act upon his various lusts and desires. These conditions; environment, lust, and power all relate to and affect restraint.