Ivory is the white, bonelike substance forming the tusks of elephants, used for ornaments, piano keys, etc. The Congo was during Conrad’s time valued by the westerners chiefly as a source of ivory. Mr. Kurtz had been sent by the Belgian Trading Company
as an agent to collect ivory and dispatch it to Europe through the manager of the company’s central Station. The whole apparatus at the Central Station and the other stations as well, centres round ivory. Mr. Kurtz has proved to be the best agent in the sense that he collects more ivory than all other agents taken together. Mr. Kurtz does not merely collect ivory but in the process of collecting it, has himself developed a passion for ivory. The manager of the Central Station, criticizing Kurtz for his greed, remarks that anybody might have heard him say, “My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my-”
This passion for ivory shows the extreme point to which a man’s greed can go. Mr. Kurtz often goes into the interior of the Congo in his quest for ivory. Even when he lies ill, he keeps asking those around him to save his ivory lest it should be plundered. Thus, collecting ivory symbolizes the greed and commercial mentality of the western nations.