As cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back
As we continue to use Freud’s theory of Psychoanalysis, we can identify the driving force behind the character’s personality and in some cases why that particular personality is dominant. According to Freud, there are “three layers of self within all… the id is the first part of the self to develop. The ego is able to discern what is right or wrong based on context. The third part is the super ego, which is based on the part of self that plagues us with shame and guilt when we fail to meet certain standards. With this theory, we can see how Marlow thoughts and thinking is changed throughout the story as well as the people around him. As we first see Marlow in the story he is described as having “sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straight back as ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of hand out wards, resembled an idol”.
By the first descriptions of Marlow we see that he seems like a his ego in the beginning of the story was very under control. But when he gets to the Outer Station in Africa, he’s in the superego, because his first impression in this new society. To continue, Marlow realizes the truth about the inhabitants of Congo when he sees the slaves. He points out his first thoughts by saying, “They were not enemies, they were not criminals, and they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.” He later meets the chief accountant; he seems to be very focused by his image. Back at the Outer Station, despite the different society and environment, Marlow seems to be still aware and upright. During Marlow trip up the Congo River to the Central Station, he begins to enter the ego state.
His morals begin to fade away as his psyche changes as well. Ego is the shift between id and the superego. Throughout the trip, Marlow encounters cannibals. He has different view of them as it seems like his judgment is wrong when he points them out as “fine fellows” since “after all, they did not eat each other before my face”. Once there at the Central Station, Marlow seems eager to meet Kurtz. As Marlow is told more and more good things about Kurtz the more he wants to meet him.
As they begin to get closer to the Central Station, a hazy fog appears. The fog seems to be them entering and I guess different place. It makes it seem like it’s a transition to a whole uncivilized society. Once they are in the heart of the jungle, this is where the id comes to play.
It comes to play here since there isn’t any rule or civilization. In the jungle’s heart, there is neither civilization nor rule, making it an ideal domain for the id. The id comes to play with Kurtz. Freud says the id represents “unrepressed human instinctive desires”. Kurtz can be used as an example because it seems like he has created his own place with only his rules. To show his power u can see how he has human heads as trophies that “seemed to sleep at the top of that pole”. Kurtz has no rule or law against him, so as an outcome of this he feels like he has power to become somewhat of a King.
When Kurtz is forced to leave his own kingdom, the true heart of darkness is exposed: Kurtz has recruited the natives to worship him as a god with “the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations”. The lawlessness of the land and Kurtz’s absolute power exists because “Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him”.
Kurtz’s id was satisfied because nothing could stop it in the heart of darkness, but Marlow and European civilization play the role of the superego and ego to shelter the id. Conrad’s purpose in The Heart of Darkness through our lens, was that a man can change his behavior according to his geographical and societal surroundings. Conrad records his experiences by using characters like Kurtz and Marlow in order to paint a clear picture for the reader about how life really was for people living in Congo in that time, living under the rule of King Leopold II of Belgium. For Example, the way Kurtz is used in the story.
Kurtz is a character who is viewed as a civilized man and a typical imperialist, who eventually yields to his barbaric nature under the influence of the less civilized context of Congo. In Africa, Kurtz is isolated from his original social and cultural background. Kurtz becomes id driven. In other words, by removing all constraints and pressures the instinctive id overpowers Kurtz’s super-ego because the ego cannot achieve a balance in such unrestrained environment.
But in colonial Africa where there are clearly no such moral restraints he feels that he has an absolute authority; he behaves as a demiurge that has the power to order and kill. His desire for power and wealth in Africa results in the id getting control over his ego which leads to his state of psychosis. His psychotic state allows him to follow corrupted ways and use criminal means to accumulate wealth in Africa. For Kurtz, all means are justified to fulfill his ends. This includes enslaving, killing and mass extermination of the innocent natives.
After the voyage, Conrad returned ravaged by scars, mental distraction and illness.