The fiancé of his Intended, and a man of great intellect, talent, and ambition who is warped by his time in the Congo. Kurtz is the embodiment of all that's noble about European civilization, from his talent in the arts to his ambitious goals of "civilizing" and helping the natives of Africa, and can be seen as a symbol of that civilization. But in his time in Africa Kurtz is transformed from a man of moral principles to a monster who makes himself a god among the natives, even going so far as to perform "terrible rites." His transformation proves that for all of his talent, ambition, and moral ideas, he was hollow at the core.
The Heart of Darkness quotes below are all either spoken by Kurtz or refer to Kurtz. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of Heart of Darkness published in 1990.).
Part 1 Quotes
In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.
Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? It seems I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams...no, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence—that which makes its truth, its meaning—its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream—alone.
Part 2 Quotes
It was a distinct glimpse: the dugout, four paddling savages, and the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home—perhaps; setting his face towards the depth of the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station.
It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: "Exterminate all the brutes!"
"I tell you," he cried, "this man has enlarged my mind."
Part 3 Quotes
There was something wanting in him—some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this deficiency himself I can't say. I think the knowledge came to him at last—only at the very last. But the wilderness found him out early, and had taken vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude—and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core.
"The horror! The horror!"
"Mistah Kurtz—he dead."
I was within a hair's-breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. . . . He had summed up—he had judged. "The horror!" He was a remarkable man.
I heard a light sigh and then my heart stood still, stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, by the cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable pain. 'I knew it—I was sure!' . . . She knew. She was sure. I heard her weeping; she had hidden her face in her hands. It seemed to me that the house would collapse before I could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. But nothing happened. The heavens do not fall for such a trifle.
Page Number and Citation:
The timeline below shows where the character Kurtz appears in Heart of Darkness. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...Manager explains why he took the steamship onto the river before Marlow, its pilot, arrived: Kurtz, the Company's best agent, is sick. The General Manager takes special interest when Marlow mentions... (full context)