“Then he tried to imagine himself dead, and Carlier sitting in his chair watching him; and his attempt met with such unexpected success, that in a very few moments he became not at all sure of who was dead and who was alive. This extraordinary achievement of fancy startled him, however, and by a clever and timely effort of mind he saved himself just in time from becoming Carlier.”
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”, in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales (New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002). 24.
Kayerts’ sense of confusion over who is dead and who isn’t anticipates his own death by suicide on the next page. Does Kayerts paradoxically save himself from “becoming” Carlier (now dead) by killing himself (dead)? By doing so, does he wash his hands of his complicity in the imperialistic process?