Kurtz and the Symbolic Order
Reading of Lacan’s ideas of shifting from the Imaginative to the Symbolic Orders, I came across something that interested me. In talking about desire, it is said, “all desire is inherently metaphoric, inherently a matter of a substitute object that stands in for the initially absent mother object. What we can learn is to accept frustration and to come to acknowledge the lack that defines our being” (Rivkin, p. 394). The point can be summarized by saying that our desires will never be satisfied by chasing objects defined by signifiers, as we’re never able to reach the Real—which is unreachable as we are confined to the object world anyway.
I think this applies especially to Kurtz because of his unrestrained pursuit of objects. He was the most successful in his acquisition of ivory. His desire for ivory compelled him to do whatever it took to complete the job. He objectified other people. He objectified himself as a god. He was relentless in his gaining of ivory to the point of resisting his own weakening of health. Kurtz was reaching his desires to some degree, but each victory led to more desire, and the cycle repeated.
I think this would be most comparable to an addiction. It could be drugs, alcohol, shopping, etc. The means is only important as it relates to its sense of satisfaction. However, as I’m sure we all know to some degree, this sense of satisfaction quickly fades and we try to repeat the process hoping for the ultimate satisfaction of attaining the Real, and since it can never be reached through objects, we fail and desire again. It would have been best for Kurtz, to paraphrase, get used to disappointment.