After declaring his passionate hate of lying it is odd to see the complete reversal of character in Marlow by the end of the book. Then perhaps it is not a change but merely an unexpected extension of his character that gives a different dimension to his personality.
His statement “You know I hate, detest, and can’t bear a lie…it appalls me. It makes me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do” (Longman 2210) gives what one may rightly consider a very straightforward clean cut description of the man’s moral view and character traits. Yet by the end of the book one may feel he has not only betrayed their trust but himself and all the values he seemed to embody during the course of the story.
Marlow’s interview with Kurtz’s Intended was less than the honesty one might have expected given his vehement stand on the issue of lying. When he went to speak to her I fully expected him to be completely honest and tell her the truth. My logic was that if she knew what Kurtz was like in reality her suffering would be eased and she would be able to gain an honest semi-objective view of the man she loved. That shows my modern thinking! It soon became clear that she was not going to accept any version of the truth and I found myself hoping that Marlow would lie to her to spare he the torture of knowing the truth. Her constant interrupting of Marlow’s dialogue in order to fill in wonderful, glowing details about the man was a complete revelation as to what she could hear and survive. Marlow says, “It was impossible not to” “Love him” she finished eagerly…”How true! How true!” (Longman 2244) . Once Marlow has decided to sugar coat the truth he begins to utter non-committal phrases in regards to Kurtz which the Intended finishes; “His words will remain,” I said. “And his example,” she whispered to herself. “Men look up to him, — his goodness shone in every act. His example” (Longman 2245). I think Marlow begins to see that he cannot be honest with her when they begin to speak of Kurtz’s death. He says, “My anger subsided before a feeling of infinite pity” (Longman 2245). She was a woman, she was weak, she was alone, and every male tendency within Marlow rose up and prevented him from crushing what was left of her fragile spirit.
I think perhaps his choice to lie to the Intended was because of a similar female influence on his life…his Aunt. I think in a way Marlow is comparing the Intended to his Aunt in that they were both women and therefore weaker than he. He sees them as something delicate something that needs to be tenderly cared for. He says, “It is queer how out of touch with the truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it, and can never be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset” (Longman 2199). This he says before ever meeting Kurtz or hearing of the Intended. Upon lying to her (the Intended) he says, “But I couldn’t. I could not tell her. It would have been too dark too dark altogether…” (Longman 2246). Marlow protected her he allowed her to remain innocent of Kurtz and his actions and in so doing enabled her sun to remain high rather than setting and forever engulfing her in darkness.