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
, 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.