This phrase is found in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”
Central to Conrad’s work is the idea that there is little difference between “civilised people” and “savages.” Heart of Darkness implicitly comments on imperialism and racism.
Joseph Conrad about a narrated voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State in the Heart of Africa. Charles Marlow, the narrator, tells his story to friends aboard a boat anchored on the River Thames.
This setting provides the frame for Marlow’s story of his obsession with the successful ivory trader Kurtz. Conrad offers parallels between London (“the greatest town on earth”) and Africa as places of darkness.
This is the final judgment of Kurtz on his own life, actions, and generally on humankind and imperialism, when in part three of the story he says, “The horror!
Kurtz was seriously ill; thus, Marlow persuades him to return to England (by steamer) as he wants Kurtz to be free from the natives of Congo. During his period of illness, he develops a strong relationship with Marlow. He handed a packet of papers to Marlow and asks to keep them safe. Then Mr Kurtz speaks of death as if he had become aware that his end was approaching. One evening, Marlow noticed an expression of mingled pride, power, terror and despair on Mr Kurtz’s face. Many passions were struggling with one another in his soul when he cried out these words and dies.
The horror! The horror!
These words signify that there was something horrible about Mr Kurtz’s dying vision of his earthly existence. Darkness prevails when he dies; symbolizing that his actions were evil.
Thus, Kurtz becomes fully conscious in his last time that there was hardly anything for him to be proud of in his whole life.
Therefore, Conrad wants to bring forth Kurtz as a symbol of hypocrisy, of the white man’s claims of civilizing the African savages.
The writer shows the degradation of Kurtz who a highly civilized product of Europe becomes a demonic person.