Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now



Christian Rivas
5-20-2000
Period 6
Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now

Inside every human soul is a savage evil side that remains separated by society. Often this evil side breaks out during times of isolation from our culture, and whenever one culture confronts another. Whenever different cultures meet, there is often a fear of contamination and loss of self that leads us to discover more about our true selves, often causing madness by those who have yet to discover. Joseph Conrad\'s book, The Heart of Darkness and the movie, Apocalypse Now are both stories about Man\'s journey into his self, and the discoveries to be made there. They are also about Man confronting his fears of failure, insanity, and death.
During Marlow\'s mission to find Kurtz, he is also trying to find himself. He, like Kurtz had good intentions upon entering the Congo. Joseph Conrad tries to show us that Marlow is what Kurtz had been, and Kurtz is what Marlow could become. Every human has a little of Marlow and Kurtz in them. Along the trip into the wilderness, they discover their true selves through contact with savage natives. As Marlow ventures further up the Congo, he feels like he is traveling back through time. He sees the unsettled wilderness and can feel the darkness of its solitude. The deeper into the jungle he goes, the more awkward the inhabitants seem. Kurtz had lived in the Congo, and was separated from his own culture for quite some time. He had once been considered an honorable man, but the jungle changed him greatly. Here, set apart from the rest of his own society, he discovered his evil side and became corrupted by his power and solitude. Marlow tells us about the Ivory that Kurtz kept as his own, and that he had no restraint. Kurtz went insane and allowed himself to be worshiped as a god. It appears that while Kurtz had been isolated from his culture, he had become corrupted by this violent native culture, and allowed his evil side to control him. Marlow realizes that only very near the time of death, does a person grasp the big picture. Kurtz\'s last supreme moment of complete knowledge showed him how horrible the human soul really can be. Marlow can only guess as to what Kurtz saw that caused him to exclaim "The horror! The horror." Marlow guesses that Kurtz suddenly knew everything and discovered how horrible the way of man can be. Marlow learned through Kurtz\'s death, and he now knows that inside every human is this horrible, evil side.
The movie, Apocalypse Now, is based loosely upon Joseph Conrad\'s book. Captain Willard is a Marlow who is on a mission into Cambodia during the Vietnam war to find and kill an insane Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz, was an officer and a sane, successful, brilliant leader. Like Joseph Conrad\'s Kurtz, this Kurtz shows us a man who was once very well respected, but was corrupted by the horror of war and the cultures he met. In Heart of Darkness we find that Kurtz\'s major fear is "being white in a non white jungle." The story Kurtz tells Willard about the Special Forces going into a village, checking the children for polio and going away, and the communists coming into the village and cutting off all the children\'s arms, is the main evidence for this cause in that film. This is when Kurtz begins to go mad. Kurtz is facing a new culture and has a terrible time dealing with it. This was the beginning of his insanity. This tells us that the evil side and the madness in both Kurtzes were brought out by the fear of new cultures different from their own, and their inability to deal with this fear. Yet, the difference of man and reality merged for the two Kurtzes, one in the Congo, and one in Vietnam.
American Culture views it self as "correct," and we see ourselves as powerful police of the world. Our culture looked down upon the Vietnamese because they were more simple than us, just as Europe and Marlow looked down on the Africans. Believing ourselves to be superior, we had a lot of trouble dealing with the discovery that we are not. Apocalypse Now