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But on another level, Conrad uses Kurtz’s African mistress and his Intended to attack the very notion that Africa can be seen as Europe’s opposite.Kurtz’s African mistress and his Intended differ in superficial ways.
Despite these striking differences, the African mistress and the Intended share a prominent function in the novel.
Both exist primarily to symbolize Kurtz’s status and wealth.
Throughout the novel, he presents us with alleged oppositions that turn out to be disconcertingly similar.
Europe, for example, was once as “primitive” as the nineteenth-century Europeans’ image of Africa.
The African mistress wears bold colors, stripes and fringes, brass rings that climb up her ankles, and jewelry that Marlow can only describe as “barbarous” and “bizarre.” By contrast, the Intended presents herself in a way that suggests decorum and restraint.
She appears in the black garb of mourning, with a face whose paleness contrasts starkly with the bright red paint on the mistress’s cheek.
” Although somewhat questionable, this statement hints that there is more truth in the darkness within the heart of Kurtz, and in turn in that of imperialism, then can be seen immediately on the surface.
Certainly Kurtz set out aiming to bring some good values to the Congo, and thus is reaching for the goals of many others looking to do the same, but so much is unknown about what he brings to accompany such progress and enlightenment.
The mistress’s regal posture, beauty, and excessive jewelry declare to all her countrymen the fact of Kurtz’s brilliance and power.
Likewise, the Intended can only state and repeat Kurtz’s vague claims to genius, to the extent that Marlow becomes irritated.