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"The Horror! The Horror!"  

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royzieglerh70
(@royzieglerh70)
Bookworm AP Lit 2020
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March 4, 2020 2:55 pm  

The most jarring example of the ambiguity and bewilderment of language being unable to provide concrete interpretation is in Kurtz’s last words, “The horror! The horror!” It seems that this note of dialogue helps to push forward a central moment of the novel, in which no matter how vividly Marlow describes his experiences, language can never fully embody or effectively communicate the meaning of the past for those who experienced it. The definition of horror in this novel, therefore, is intentionally undefinable and unattainable, and the relationship between Marlow and Kurtz is something that serves as the prime example of this. After Kurtz’s death, Marlow still idealizes him as something unknowable and is unable to reconcile the voice of Kurtz that he had heard exclaim about “the horror”, the man that had been buried by the natives, and the man of lore that made Marlow pursue him in the first place. Kurtz cries out “at some image, at some vision,” which is unknowable to both of us. The horror is a signifier without a concrete signified, but its role in the story is to repossess Marlow to the impression of Kurtz which he had relinquished to reality. The ambiguity of Kurtz’s last words does not give any concrete interpretation to Marlow or the reader, but the vagueness affords Marlow to reapply his belief in Kurtz as the protagonist of a mythic narrative. 


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graceirla
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March 4, 2020 9:35 pm  

What I've been considering lately is what exactly the "horror" Kurtz talks about is. Through his time in the Congo, Kurtz appears completely ruthless, disregarding almost all of the natives except for his mistress, and abusing them in ways like putting their severed heads on sticks. I don't fully believe that he regrets this suddenly, people as strong-minded as Kurtz don't often change their minds like that. This leads me to consider other options, like if Kurtz is horrified at the nature of his death. He's dying in a foreign place, surrounded by people he considers to be subhuman. In addition to this, he's dying in the dark, waiting for death to come to him. Is it possible that the "horror" is death itself? Or the irony of dying the way he is? I think it may be the fact that his death is no different than that of one of the Congo natives.


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zrosario002
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March 5, 2020 12:28 pm  

I agree with everything that has been said. I think the meaning of "The horror! The horror!" is relating to the transformation of Kurtz and how he has succumbed to a being of complete selfishness and no self restraint. The horror that I think Conrad is trying to highlight is the i'd like tendencies of humans to be consumed by their own greed. Kurtz selfishness and greed control him and he has been nothing but obsessed with ivory. This can be linked to the exploitation of Africa and imperialism as a whole. The atrocities committed in Africa are true horrors fueled by greed and selfishness on a large scale. Igt resulted in the deaths of millions of Africans and exploitation of the resources of Africa, and that is the true horror that Conrad is trying to show.


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royemmis25
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March 20, 2020 10:49 am  

What has stuck with me when talking about this line in class, was when chisnell suggested that marlo didn’t lie to the intended when he said the last thing Kurtz spoke was her name. This would mean that he called her a horror. Or perhaps marlo thought her personality or behavior was a horror. The way she followed Kurtz blindly the way the natives seemed to follow him may definitely stir something within marlo.


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