Human Nature in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now
In Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” the reader learns more and more about human nature as Marlow, Captain Willard, go farther and farther up the river in search of Kurtz. An evil side lies within every man, but this evil remains repressed by society. When moving up the river and farther away from civilization, the evil side begins to break out. Whenever basically different cultures meet we are led to discover ourselves and can even drive us to perceived madness.
Both stories are about “Man’s” journey finding himself, and confronting his fears of failure, insanity, culture and even death. Marlow is an early version of Kurtz, and Kurtz is what Marlow could become. He, like Kurtz, had good intentions upon entering the Congo. Along the trip into the wilderness, they discover their true nature through contact with the natives. Even Marlow admits, “I was getting savage.” As Marlow ventures farther up the Congo, he feels like he is traveling back in time, the deeper into the heart he goes the more regressed the inhabitants seem.
Kurtz once was considered an honorable man, but living in the Congo separated from his own culture he changed greatly. In the jungle he discovers his evil side, secluded from the rest of his own society he becomes corrupted by power. “My Ivory. My people, my ivory, my station, my river,” everything was under Kurtz’s reign. While at Kurtz’s camp Marlow encounters the broken roof on Kurtz’s house, the “black hole,” this is a sign of the uncivilized. The black hole represents the unknown and unconquered, and therefore represents the uncivilized. Also, Marlow notices the “black heads” on Kurtz’s fence. Again representing savagery with the color black. The solitude and darkness of the jungle has allowed Kurtz to let himself be worshipped as a god and for the most part, go insane.
The Horror! The Horror! In the classic novel Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad takes us on a journey into the soul of man. When the character of Marlow travels into the jungle of Africa to find Kurtz, he realizes that he is in a place where the rules of society no longer constrain human nature, and the frightening truths about human beings can be observed first hand. Marlow finds that human nature ...
Similar events occur in Francis Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” Captain Willard pushes farther up the river where the solitude from society and the destruction of war tamper with human nature. During the opening scene, Willard is shown in despair, going from America to war and back was too much for him to handle. He moved back to Saigon hoping to find himself. However he does not know his own true self until he discovers Colonel Kurtz’s true nature.
Throughout the movie, new characters are introduced showing differences in human nature due to the effects of war. For instance the helicopter commander no longer cares for human life anymore; he finds it all right to surf while his men are being killed. He is hardened by the war, meaning he shows no fear. Contrary to that the Chef lives in almost constant fear. With the river and surroundings becoming more and more uncivilized with every mile, he grows more and more afraid. Afraid for his life, afraid he should have joined the navy.
Most human beings or at least Americans believe that the most technologically advanced races are the best. Yet a patrol boat armed to the teeth can not do anything against a few villagers with spears and arrows. When the chief of the boat dies from a spear, Captain Willard’s eyes are opened to the horror he finds himself trapped in. Just as Marlow’s eyes were opened to the same horror when a similar type of uncivilized culture killed his engine man.
This lack of civilized culture is shown all the way up the river. Even the S.O. show that playboy put on for the troops showed the lust and desire that humans are capable of. War also brings out fear and anarchy. While at the bridge Captain Willard attempts to find the Commanding Officer of the outfit. When he asks one young man where the CO is, he gets the response “Aren’t you him?” this free reign and lack of control is enough to strike terror in the heart of anyone.
All Quiet on the Western Front As World War I comes into mind, millions of young men are pictured fighting for their country. Particularly, the countries of Britain, America as well as the other allies are thought of as triumphs. On the other hand, Germany was the evil enemy of the war. However, the novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque depicts the horror and hopelessness of ...
In “Apocalypse Now”, Colonel Kurtz’s village is shown very closely to that of Conrad’s Kurtz. The darkened heads still decorated the fences and the “black hole” still remains open, the signs of the uncivilized culture are everywhere. This type of atmosphere makes it difficult to repress ones animal instincts and remain sane at the same time.
Kurtz is made out to be this “universal genius,” but he is really just a hallow man, a false guru only interested in selfish gains. Kurtz’s genius is never shown, the only part of him that stands out is his ability to speak; yet Kurtz only utters a few fleeting words. Words like “The Horror!” and “I want no more than justice.” These are not words of a genius but words of a selfish man, with ideals diluted by power. His horror, this injustice is no more than his lot of ivory being turned over to the trading company, or in the movie Kurtz’s people, his natives, going back to the control of the Vietnamese or even worse the Americans. Kurtz best describes his curiosity and longing to die in the movie. Colonel Kurtz states:
“I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream. That’s my nightmare. Crawling, swiftly, along the edge of a straight…razor…and surviving.”
Kurtz’s worst fear is living, going back to civilization as an uncivilized man. After having his soul cut up by war, just as the snails soft under belly would be cut.
Both Marlow and Captain Willard were fully warned and well aware of the evils each would encounter. However he chooses to ignore this aspect in hopes of satisfying his curiosity. His curiosity about the unknown realm drives him to cross the line between civilized human behavior and enters a nightmarish world. In this nightmare world he realizes the horror of human nature as he sees over the edge of sanity and discovers what he could