Of Darkness And Lies
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 and overall setting of the story. In
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow dislikes lies and therefore only tells two,
both in extraordinary circumstances. Thus, these lies show the following about
Marlow: even though he has been touched by evil, he is still a good man himself.

He never actually tells a lie, but lets others continue to believe what they
already believe in which case helps him justify the lies. Marlow, in the middle
of his story, interrupts 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 appall and disgust him immensely. 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 the most exceptional state
of affairs. 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 powerful. 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
in some way. This is an excellent reason for telling a lie. 2 The second lie was
also told in extraordinary circumstances. It is told to “the intended”
so that the image of her dead fiancée 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 to people and the surrounding environment.

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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. Thus,
this example was 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 fiancée 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 fiancé 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. 3 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. Society, as well
as the world, would be a better place if they were.

English Essays


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