Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written by Robert Stevenson, both narrate the good and bad of the human character by writing that people can have different sides to them. One they show the public world and one they show the private world. Throughout Robert Stevenson’s book, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the title character, is split in two forms in the same body. Dr. Jekyll, the good side and Mr. Hyde, his bad side. In Joseph Conrad’s novel, the split is less obvious. Throughout these novels, it becomes clear that the duality of man exists in everyone.
In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the two sides of one character are displayed more clearly than in Heart of Darkness because one character has two sides. Dr. Jekyll is a good a positive member of society while Mr. Hyde is negative and can be considered “pure evil” (Stevenson 1711). These two men are are created by Dr. Jekyll with the strong curiosity and motivation to separate these two sides of himself. “I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both; and from an early date… had begun to suggest the most naked possibility of such a miracle… I had learned to dwell with pleasure, as a beloved daydream, on the thought of the separation of these elements” (Stevenson 1709). Even though the two personalities share the same body, they have different characteristics and appearances. Dr. Jekyll is a london scientist who is well known for his dinner parties and who is large and handsome. “A fortnite later…the doctor gave one of his pleasant dinners…Dr. Jekyll…a large, well-made, smooth-faced, man of fifty, with some thing of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness” (Stevenson 1686). Mr. Hyde is then described by Mr. Enfield, saying “He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why…” (Stevenson 1680 ). Mr. Hyde makes the people he comes across feel such uneasiness, and yet no one, not even Mr. Enfield, can point out was is wrong about him. Dr. Jekyll, in his full statement, comments “Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter and younger than Henry Jekyll” (Stevenson 1711). Even the house they live in is split, reflecting their personalities. Where Mr. Hyde spends most of his time is in the laboratory and is seen through the eyes of Mr. Utterson.”It was the first time that the lawyer had been received in that part of his friend’s quarters; and he eyed the dingy, windowless structure with curiosity… as he crossed the theatre, once crowded with eager students and now lying gaunt and silent, the tables laden with chemical apparatus, the floor strewn with crates and littered with packing straw” (Stevenson 1690) and the entrance to that side of the house is described as “the door, which was equipped with neither bell nor knocker, was blistered and distained. Tramps slouched into the recess and struck matches on the panels… no one appeared to drive away these random visitors or to repair their ravages” (Stevenson 1678). From this description, you can see Mr. Hyde inhabits the dangerous side of London. Dr. Jekyll’s side of the house is described as “…at the door of this, which wore a great air of wealth and comfort….” (Stevenson 1685). The neat and orderly character of Henry Jekyll is reflected by his orderly household while Mr. Hyde’s half of the house show negligence. Furthuring the duality, the characters have certain times where they are active. Dr. Jekyll is active during the day but, at night, Mr. Hyde is active. This is seen when Dr. Jekyll goes to sleep as himself and wakes up as Hyde the next night. “It was in vain…I saw the decent furniture and tall proportions of my room…something still kept insisting that I was not where I was… but in the little room in Soho where I wa accustomed to sleep in the body of Edward Hyde” (Stevenson 1713). Hyde roams in the bad part of London while Jekyll roams in the sophisticated part. Through specific details, the morality of the character is clearly defined and determined as good or bad. Stevenson supports this idea even more with the fact the Dr. Jekyll must kill Mr. Hyde in order for his good character to survive. “The powers of Hyde seemed to have grown with the sickliness of Jekyll” (Stevenson 1718). The two sides cannot coexist because a character could only be good or bad.
In Heart of Darkness, a man can also have two sides, but without separating oneself. There is much more vagueness of the characters, perhaps due to the fact that there is a lot more detail in The Heart of Darkness. Marlow goes on a journey to the jungle to transport ivory and ultimately to meet Kurtz and to bring him out of the jungle. Marlow begins the journey as an idealist and then soon discovers a darker side of his character. He knows more about corruption than his aunt, “It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are…” (Conrad 1961) or the woman in the “whited sepulchre” (Conrad 1958) do, but he does not know what could keep Kurtz in the inner station. When journeying on the African river, he is appalled by the squalor and disease present in the native people, “I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had a iron collar on his neck…” (Conrad 1963) and impressed by the Accountant, who keeps a proper, civilized appearance, “I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots…” (Conrad 1965). However, it doesn’t take Marlow long to notice fear and paranoia as he sees a French ship firing into the underbrush with no actual target and realizes that paranoia can drive men insane. “…there was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight…” (Conrad 1962). Meeting Kurtz is the final blow to his belief system. Kurtz’s lack of empathy and his apparent insanity is contrasted with Kurtz’s immense charisma and eloquence that Kurtz’s intended remembers him by, “…Men looked up to him – his goodness shone in every act..” (Conrad 2010). Marlow, and those in the Jungle, saw a different side. Marlow talks about how “the manager said…Mr. Kurtz’s methods ruined the district…” (Conrad 1996). All of this showing Marlow that an educated and civilized man can have a “heart of immense darkness” (Conrad 2011) and change under pressure. Kurtz’s last words were “The horror! The horror!” (Conrad 2005). This refers to the horror in the change that has taken place within himself. He has become savage and treated native cruelly to gain power over them. He has become what he had initially detested, a man that puts head on stakes. “…there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids – a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole…” (Conrad 1996). Without social norms, Kurtz’s dark heart emerged and ruled his actions. “Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts…” (Conrad 1996). Marlow sees that all men have the same potential, even himself, and his outlook is forever altered. In Heart of Darkness, good and evil are mixed within the same person, just like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The same person who is cruel and irrational can still feel love and affection. Kurtz has a good reputation in the outer stations and Europe but, inside the jungle Kurtz is cruel to the natives.
Within every person there is a heart of darkness as well as the good natured being. As expressed in both works, everyone has two sides and choose to give in to deadly desires and regret it. Dr. Jekyll feared giving into Mr. Hyde so he chooses to kill himself and in Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s last words showed that he regretted any brutality he had committed. The difference between the two novels becomes clear when Marlow decides to hide Kurtz’s last phrase “Exterminate all the brutes” (Conrad 1990). Marlow displays an understanding of the mixed mortality and his acceptance of the duality of man whereas we never know if Mr. Utterson ever truly understands the dark inside a man’s heart that yearns to be set free. These novels make one realize that we too, like Marlow, should accept the duality of man as a fact of life.