Heart of Darkness - Marlow\'s Lies

A lie is an untruth. It can be a false statement or a statement
left unsaid which causes someone to be misled. In life lies are told
for many different reasons. In fiction they thicken the plot. In

Conrad\'s Heart of Darkness, Marlow dislikes lies and therefore
only tells two, both in extraordinary circumstances, and the lies show
the following about Marlow: even though he has been touched by evil,
he is still a good man himself; that he never actually tells a lie, he
lets others continue to believe what they already believe; and that
this helps him justify the lies. Marlow, in the middle of his story,
interupts himself to say "You know I hate, detest, and can\'t bear a
lie." He does not think he is better than the rest of the world. Lies
simply appal him. 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,
he would only tell a lie in extraordinary circumstances. The first lie
was told by Marlow in extraordinary circumstances. It was told because
he had a notion it would somehow be of help to Mr. Kurtz. The lie was
to allow the brick maker to think he had more influence in the company
than he actually had. This lie would help Kurtz in two ways. Firstly
it would help Marlow to get the rivets he needed to fix the boat, and
that would provide Kurtz with a means of communication, or a way out
of the jungle. Secondly it would provide Kurtz with an ally who was
perceived as influential. Marlow knew that others were jealous of the
success of Mr. Kurtz. Some saw him as the next "Director of the

Company," and some were trying to find a reason to hang him. If Marlow
was considered powerful, he might be able to help Mr. Kurtz. This is
an extraordinary reason for telling a lie.

The second lie was also told in extraordinary circumstances. It is
told to "the intended" so that the 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 things he
had done. Marlow had to decide if he should tell her the truth about

Kurtz and cause her even greater grief, or let her go on believing
that he was a good man. This is an extraordinary circumstance, and
thus 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. Kurtz is dead and to tell the truth would only hurt an
innocent woman. She had no idea that her fiance had an evil heart. She
thought that he was loved and admired by everyone who knew him. If she
learned of the things he had done, it would destroy her. Marlow showed
his good side by not telling her the truth about Kurtz. This is a
suitable ending to the work 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 unchanged, for the
most part. He is still a good human being with feelings and a sense of
right and wrong. Marlow never actually vocalized a lie. He simply
allowed others to continue to believe an untruth. First the brick
maker thought Marlow was more influential than he actually was, and

Marlow allowed him to continue to believe that. Secondly the intended
thought her fiance was a good man, and Marlow allowed her to continue
to believe that. Since he never actually vocalized a lie, he was
better able to justify them to himself.

Marlow dislikes lies, and only tells them in extraordinary
circumstances. When he does lie, it is for the sake of others, not
himself. This shows that he is a kind human being. It is unfortunate
that all lies are not told with such noble purpose. The world would be
a better place if they were.