Knowledge and the Descent into Darkness.
At the dawning of the 21st century, the term "forbidden knowledge" seems almost quaint. In an age that we can unlock and utilize the power of the atom, read and write the code of life and look into the heavens to see literally billions of years down the road, what knowledge can be forbidden to us? And yet, it is not worldly learning that is dangerous. From the tiniest particle to the largest star, the worst that we can do with the fruits of such knowledge is kill ourselves, and we have all but grown used to that. Knowledge of the soul is another matter entirely, requiring a wholly different sort of education. Learning what hidden desires and depravities lurk behind each human face "especially one's own "is the knowledge at which the mind truly recoils. It is, therefore, a lesson that we rarely learn, preferring instead to live out our lives in a state of forced ignorance, choosing what we do and do not see in the world around us, even in our families, our friends, and ourselves. The price of this knowledge is in the knowing, and precious few are willing, or even able to pay. Indeed, only those particularly gifted in life are ever given the option, realizing their true potential for good or evil. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, tells just such a tale of two men: Kurtz, who became the devil incarnate, and Marlow, who came to discover that he had not the will for either extreme.
Let us begin with Marlow, the first character in Heart of Darkness with whom we truly become acquainted. Marlow is an example of an unremarkable man that has been through extraordinary circumstances, and for all appearances enjoys reminding his fellows of this at every opportunity. Conrad's narrator describes in brevity Marlow's inclination to telling stories, and that it comes as no surprise to their companions when Marlow begins to tell of his voyage to the Congo, his audience not even bothering to groan at what seems to be yet another re-telling (1369).