According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a lie is an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker or it is something that misleads or deceives. In other words, a lie is an untruth. In life lies are told for many different reasons. In fiction they give a little more body to the plot. In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow dislikes lies and therefore only tells them in extraordinary circumstances.
The lie show that Marlow, even though he has been touched by evil, he is still a good man himself; that he never actually tells a lie, though he lets others continue to believe what they already believe; and by doing this, it helps him justify the lies. Marlow, in the middle of his story, interrupts himself and says “You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie. ” If reading this and only this statement alone, we can clearly see Marlow does not like lies. Marlow feels there is a “taint of death, and a flavor of mortality in lies.
Lying makes him feel “miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do. ” Since he feels this way, we as the reader know that he would only tell a lie in extraordinary circumstances. The lie was told to Kurtz’s “intended” so that the beloved image of her dead fiance would not be destroyed. She has waited at least two years for her lover to return from Africa, and now he is dead. During this time she has built his image up in her mind. To her, Kurtz is a man to be admired. She feels it would be “impossible not to love him.
She was proud to have been engaged to Kurtz, and would be shocked to learn of the bad things he had done in the jungle. Marlow had to decide if he should tell her the truth about Kurtz and cause her even greater sadness, or let her go on believing that he was indeed a good man. This is an extraordinary circumstance, and so one in which Marlow could tell a lie. The significance of this lie is that it would serve no purpose to tell the truth, so Marlow does not. The truth wouldn’t matter because Kurtz is dead and to tell the truth would only hurt an innocent woman who had no idea that her fiance had an evil heart.
She thought that he was loved and admired by everyone who knew him, so if she would have learned of the bad things he had done, it would eternally destroy her. Marlow also showed his good side by not telling her the truth about Kurtz. This was a good ending to the novel because it means that even though Marlow has met a man with a “Heart of Darkness,” and that even after facing his own darkness, he has come out of the jungle morally unchanged, for the most part. He is still a good human being with feelings and a sense of right and wrong.
If we read closely, we see that Marlow never actually told a lie. He simply allowed others to continue to believe an untruth. The “intended” thought Kurtz as a good man, and Marlow allowed her to continue to believe just that. Also the “intended” remains as unknowing of the truth as she always has, and remains a part of the foreboding darkness with which the story ends. As a gentleman, Marlow feels that women are to be protected and insulated from any unpleasantness, he states that “the women are out of touch with truth”, that they are incapable of dealing with any reality.
Since he never actually told a lie, he was better able to justify them to himself. In conclusion, Marlow dislikes lies, and only tells them in extraordinary circumstances. When he does lie, it is for the sake of others, not for himself. This shows that he is a civil and kind human being. It is unfortunate that all lies are not told with such dignified purpose. The world would be a better place if they were. Though, Marlow’s quest for truth is never really fulfilled at the end of the novel because of the lie. The truth did not set him free; instead it put him further into the “darkness”.
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