Heart of Darkness By Joseph Conrad


(Essay #2)
A lie is an untruth. It can be a false statement or a
statement left unsaid which causes someone to be misled. In
life lies are told for many different reasons. In fiction
they thicken the plot. In Conrad's Heart of Darkness,
Marlow dislikes lies and therefore only tells two, both in
extraordinary circumstances, and the lies show the
following about Marlow: even though he has been touched by
evil, he is still a good man himself; that he never
actually tells a lie, he lets others continue to believe
what they already believe; and that this helps him justify
the lies. Marlow, in the middle of his story, interupts
himself to say "You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a
lie." He does not think he is better than the rest of the
world. Lies simply appal him. Marlow feels there is a
"taint of death, and a flavor of mortality in lies." Lying
makes him feel "miserable and sick, like biting something
rotten would do." Since he feels this way, he would only
tell a lie in extraordinary circumstances. The first lie
was told by Marlow in extraordinary circumstances. It was
told because he had a notion it would somehow be of help to
Mr. Kurtz. The lie was to allow the brick maker to think he
had more influence in the company than he actually had.
This lie would help Kurtz in two ways. Firstly it would
help Marlow to get the rivets he needed to fix the boat,
and that would provide Kurtz with a means of communication,
or a way out of the jungle. Secondly it would provide Kurtz
with an ally who was perceived as influential. Marlow knew
that others were jealous of the success of Mr. Kurtz. Some
saw him as the next "Director of the Company," and some
were trying to find a reason to hang him. If Marlow was
considered powerful, he might be able to help Mr. Kurtz.
This is an extraordinary reason for telling a lie. 

The second lie was also told in extraordinary
circumstances. It is told to "the intended" so that the
image of her dead fiance would not be destroyed. She has
waited at least two years for her lover to return from
Africa, and now he is dead. During this time she has built
his image up in her mind. To her Kurtz is a man to be
admired. She feels it would be "impossible not to love
him." She was proud to have been engaged to Kurtz, and
would be shocked to learn of the things he had done. Marlow
had to decide if he should tell her the truth about Kurtz
and cause her even greater grief, or let her go on
believing that he was a good man. This is an extraordinary
circumstance, and thus one in which Marlow could tell a
lie. The significance of this lie is that it would serve no
purpose to tell the truth, so Marlow does not. Kurtz is
dead and to tell the truth would only hurt an innocent
woman. She had no idea that her fiance had an evil heart.
She thought that he was loved and admired by everyone who
knew him. If she learned of the things he had done, it
would destroy her. Marlow showed his good side by not
telling her the truth about Kurtz. This is a suitable
ending to the work because it means that even though Marlow
has met a man with a "Heart of Darkness," and that even
after facing his own darkness, he has come out of the
jungle unchanged, for the most part. He is still a good
human being with feelings and a sense of right and wrong.
Marlow never actually vocalized a lie. He simply allowed
others to continue to believe an untruth. First the brick
maker thought Marlow was more influential than he actually
was, and Marlow allowed him to continue to believe that.
Secondly the intended thought her fiance was a good man,
and Marlow allowed her to continue to believe that. Since
he never actually vocalized a lie, he was better able to
justify them to himself.
Marlow dislikes lies, and only tells them in extraordinary
circumstances. When he does lie, it is for the sake of
others, not himself. This shows that he is a kind human
being. It is unfortunate that all lies are not told with
such noble purpose. The world would be a better place if
they were.


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