Pride Goes Before a Fall

"Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

Instilled in each person, resides a quality that gives purpose to life and motivation to actions. Pride is the very reason people continue to live their lives each day and attempt to overcome obstacles. Without pride, people are merely hollowed shells with no heart, no mind, and no soul. Without these essentials, mankind loses its passion and vigor in life and becomes empty and useless, falling from the great peak it has risen to. Joseph Conrad, a believer that “pride goes before fall” clearly demonstrates this human weakness through his novel, Heart of Darkness. From first hearing of the inspiring character, Mr. Kurtz, near the beginning of the novel, Conrad’s readers are instantly charmed into discovering more about the powerful man, but as the story continues, Mr. Kurtz becomes tarnished and his pride is stripped from him, leaving him to fall from his pedestal, eventually leading to his death. By witnessing Mr. Kurtz’s failure, the reader witnesses the relationship between pride and success.

Upon arriving in Africa, Marlow, an adventurous seaman searching for mystery, hears of Mr. Kurtz, a powerful man that rakes in more ivory from the wild continent than any other. This man is proclaimed to be the Company’s most valuable employee and Marlow is instantly amazed by his accomplishments. After hearing more of Mr. Kurtz from a variety of people, Marlow begins to envision a strong, assertive man able to control and conquer his surroundings, the people around him, and most importantly, ivory and money. Setting off in a steamer on a wild African river, Marlow and a meager crew begin to search for the African idol.

Days pass and Natives attack leaving the crew wounded. Mr. Kurtz is not found, yet a Russian man who knew the treasured employee appears. Telling Marlow of the mystery man’s past life, Marlow discovers that Mr. Kurtz has been weakening from sickness and is no longer a valuable asset to the Company. Now a useless loose end, the Company wishes to be rid of the man. Marlow joins Mr. Kurtz, turning his back on the Company and becoming just as useless and inconvenient as his idol. Both ruined, Marlow and Mr. Kurtz grow closer from a lack of pride.

Through Mr. Kurtz’s final moments, he struggles with himself and who he has become. Horrified with how his life has turned out, he loses his pride and begins to fall apart internally. Weakness overcomes him and sickness cripples him. Marlow watches as the man he once imagined conquering Africa and controlling its people now lay before him, gasping for help. Once Mr. Kurtz had lost himself, once he had given up his hope and decided to cease his efforts, he had fallen. Sick, weakened, powerless, heartless, and with nothing to be proud of, Mr. Kurtz met the end of his life, the fallen fall.

Pride is an essential necessity that fuels the lives of many, granting them hope, self-esteem, and achievement. Without a purpose in life, one cannot discover his self or find success. While Mr. Kurtz utilized his abilities to overcome his conflicts, he obtained power and used it to conquer Africa, increase the ivory trade, and add to his profits. Once sickness began to take hold of him and he allowed the weakness to overcome him, pride was lost along with everything he had worked for. In Joseph Conrad’s novel, Mr. Kurtz finds himself lost in the heart of darkness with nothing left but failure. Without pride, there is no pedestal for one to stand upon, no ladder to climb, and no success to be found.