Significance of the Lie -Preliminary Notes


Basic Organizational pattern: Contrast


Thesis: Marlow lies to the Intended not as an act of failure but as the act of a newly born “human” prepared to act in favor of a newly born belief, prepared to act against the destructive power of darkness.


1.   Contrast Innocence vs Experience

“that great and saving illusion”  129

“summing up whisper of his eternal condemnation” 127


2.   Levels of significance

a)  personal: disgust versus  sympathy

              anger versus “infinite pity” 130

b) Symbolic/archetypal: Ignorance versus faith

-  “cliff of pure crystal”  120

-  “mature capacity for fidelity..belief…suffering” 126

-  “ashy halo” 126

-  all light the sad light…refuge on her forehead” 126

-  “bowing my head before the faith …in her” 129

-  “her forehead… remained illumined…by belief…love”  127


3.   Significance for Marlow:

   “moral victory” vs failure;

     restraint vs cowardice


4.   “the Horror”

     - what it meant to Marlow

     -     how it would be heard( w/out the benefit of experience)

     -    what it would say about Kurtz

-what it might do to Marlow (“heavens fall” 131)

             -the “justice” question


5.   The vision of Kurtz and Africa M. experiences in the alley (124-125)

          -the remembrance of the native woman as contrast to Intended (seeing these as two ends of the human spectrum?


6.   Restraint: consider the other uses of this word and see if it is an element in this closing scene. (find references)


7.   “Principle” of not lying versus the “Belief” of lying to preserve light. Seek references  


8.   -consider the triple negativity of M.’s definition of life (119). Is this lie an action on behalf of something beyond this definition? Is it resistance?


9.   Rebirth – “they nearly buried me”- is the lie an action of the now truly “human”? (120)