Themes in Heart of Darkness

We are protected from ourselves by society with its laws and watchful neighbors, Marlow observes. We are also protected by work. "You wonder I didnít go ashore for a howl and a dance? Well, no- I didnít. Fine sentiments, you say? Fine sentiments be hanged! I had no time, I had to mess about with white-lead and strips of woolen blanket helping to put bandages on those leaky steampipes" But when the external restraints of society and work are removed we must meet the challenge with our "own inborn strength. Principles wonít do." This inborn strength appears to include restraint, the restraint that Kurtz lacked and the cannibal crew of the Roi des Belges surprisingly possessed. The hollow man, whose evil is the evil of vacancy, succumbs. In their different degrees the pilgrims and Kurtz share this hollowness. "Perhaps there was nothing within [the manager of the Central Station]. Such a suspicion made one pause -- for out there there were no external checks." And there was nothing inside the Brickmaker, "but a little loose dirt, maybe." As for Kurtz, the wilderness "It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core."