Tag Archives: ivory

Mr Kurtz is Breaking Bad

“‘You can’t judge Mr Kurtz as you would an ordinary man. No, no, no! Now–just to give you an idea–I don’t mind telling you, he wanted to shoot me too one day–but I don’t judge him’ […] He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country, because he could do so, and he had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him from killing whom he jolly well pleased” (162-3)

The Russian man’s description of Mr Kurtz reminds me of the character Tuco from Breaking Bad Season 2 (Tuco is a powerful drug lord that is seemingly insane. His friend/business associate “dissed” him, so Tuco beat him to death with his bare hands).  Like Mr Kurtz, Tuco is not an ordinary man and does not have the rational of an ordinary man. Both characters use power, intimidation and murder to get the products they desire. Conducting business with Tuco and Mr Kurtz is so dangerous that even their “friends” lives are at risk. This passages suggest that ivory is not the only thing Mr Kurtz fancies, he also fancies power.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 162-3. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

Childish Games of the Empire

“I kept to the track though–then stopped to listen. The night was very clear: a dark blue space, sparkling with dew and starlight, in which black things stood very still. I thought I could see a kind of motion ahead of me. I was strangely cocksure of everything that night. I actually left the track and ran in a wide semicircle (I verily believe chuckling to myself) so as to get in front of that stir, of that motion I had seen–if indeed I had seen anything. I was circumventing Kurtz as though it had been a boyish game.”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 172. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

This passage continues Conrad’s thematic comparison between childishness and imperialism. Marlow’s chase through darkness in search of Kurtz mirrors the chase for ivory that he is supposed to be on, but he is preoccupied with other issues. Clearly Kurtz takes the place of the ivory in Marlow’s eyes. Marlow makes a contradictory statement by saying that he was “cocksure of everything,” but later reveals that he had at the time been unsure if he has even seen Kurtz. This image mocks the assurance of those empires who make guesses of where they can find wealth then send men to go excavate it (while “chuckling” to themselves). The parallels between his silly game and imperial conquest create a frame of both satire and criticism in Heart of Darkness.