This particular passage highlights themotif of Marlow’s obsession with Kurtz. This is prevalent throughout the entirenovel– starting at the moment that Kurtz is introduced, Marlow has desired tomeet this mysterious figure. Marlow’s more specific obsession with Kurtz’svoice is established when his native helmsman is killed by a spear thrown fromthe riverbank.
His death causes Marlow to think that Kurtz must have also diedin the attack, Seeing how this was the dominant thought that crosses Marlow’smind, he shows very little regard for the unnamed helmsman’s life. The man is inconsequentialin comparison to what Kurtz means for Marlow. He casts aside the death asthoughts of never meeting Kurtz crosses his mind again. In this line of thought, Marlow tells the readerthat the act of talking to Kurtz is the sole purpose in his journey. He feels sadnessand disappointment when he believes he’ll never get the chance to speak to Kurtz.The paragraph continues as Marlow realizes this, Marlow was not looking forward aboutseeing Kurtz face to face, or shaking his hand, rather he is keener on hearingKurtz talk.
Kurtz only exists to Marlow as a voice, which develops the image ofhim as a spiritual guidance for Marlow. Because of his deep fixation, hearingKurtz speak has become the destination of his journey. Marlow’s voice is vitalin developing the narrative of the book, and in this sense, the way readerslisten to Marlow parallels how Marlow listens to Kurtz’s voice. In the majority of the novel, Marlowdoesn’t meet Kurtz but only hears about him through other people’s stories. When other people talk about Kurtz, theycharacterize him as an admirable and very successful ivory agent, despite theimmoral ways he goes about gaining it.
However, all these success tales isinsignificant compared to Marlow’s interest in seeing what Kurtz has to say. The idea oflight and dark couples with Kurtz’s charisma and deceit. His words can eitherbe interpreted as good and enlightening to some, or as a flow of deceit and lies originating from the “heart ofdarkness”, demonstrating that Kurtz is a dark voice. The alternating shades oflight and dark suggests the good and evil of white Europeans vs the natives; embodiedby Kurtz’s double-natured reputation as both a godlike and corrupt being.