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The horror! The horror!

Origin of The horror! The horror!


This phrase is found in Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness. This is the final
judgment of Kurtz on his own life, actions, and generally on humankind and
imperialism, when in part three of the story he says, The horror! The horror!
Through this line, Kurtz also points out his fate, which looks profoundly affected
by the events he faces during his escapade to the Congo.
Meaning of The horror! The horror!
Many critics have raised questions about the interpretation of this phrase.
Generally, it implies the horror Kurtz witnesses in Africa, though the horror could
be the exploitation of Africa, evil practices of humans, his crumbling sanity, or an
illusion of understanding and hope. Simply, it conveys what the West did during
colonization in the name of progress, and under the guise of civilizing the natives.
Darkness prevails when he dies, symbolizing that his actions were evil. Thus, it is
Kurtzs realization of the bitter and absolute truth of his life.
Usage of The horror! The horror!
The use of this phrase is not common in everyday life. However, you may find it in
literary texts and movies. You would notice, wherever this line appears, it conveys
the meanings of threat, evil deeds, fear of evil actions, or pointing out an alarming
situation, such as if someone or something catches fire, foreign invaders come, or
a war breaks out.
Literary Source of The horror! The horror!
Kurtz speaks this line as his final words in Conrads novella Heart of Darkness.
Marlowe describes how he utters the final words:
Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen
before, and hope never to see again. He cried in a whisper at some image, at
some visionhe cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: The
horror! The horror!
(Part III, Page 12)
During his time spent in Africa, Kurtz becomes corrupt and writes the words
Exterminate all the brutes! Here he refers to his own and his comrades
brutality in Africa, which was carried out in the name of progress and civilization.
He induced native Africans to worship and adore him, and set up rituals worthy of
a brute or a tyrant. Therefore, by the end Kurtz reflects on his life, which is
basically flashing before his eyes in the last moment, allowing readers to think
about the meanings of the horror.
Literary Analysis of The horror! The horror!
The narrative comes to an end when we find Marlowe and Kurtz moving back to
England, meaning they are returning to civilization from Africa. Kurtz is not
stable mentally or physically, slowly succumbing to death on his boat. When he
realizes he is near death, he utters this phrase, which carries deep meaning, as his
last words. In fact, he refers to all things witnessed and done throughout his stay
in the Congo.
It tells us the experiences, and brutality of Europeans, which Marlowe has seen
through his eyes. It also sums up the experiences and deep-rooted evils in the
hearts of civilized people. Their hostility makes them blind to their surroundings.
In addition, the ultimate downfall of Kurtz was due to his own evil actions during
his years spent in the Congo for the European Company.
Literary Devices
Symbolism: Phrase symbolizes the frightening reaction and fearful
utterance after witnessing evil acts.