Man’s Journey Into Self In Heart Of Darkness And A

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Man’s Journey Into Self In Heart Of Darkness And Apocalypse Now

Inherent inside every human soul is a savage evil side that remains

repressed by society. Often this evil side breaks out during times of

isolation from our culture, and whenever one culture confronts another.

History is loaded with examples of atrocities that have occurred when one

culture comes into contact with another. Whenever fundamentally 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 perceived

madness by those who have yet to discover.

The Puritans left Europe in hopes of finding a new world to welcome them and

their beliefs. What they found was a vast new world, loaded with Indian

cultures new to them. This overwhelming cultural interaction caused some

Puritans to go mad and try to purge themselves of a perceived evil. This

came to be known as the Salem witch trials.

During World War II, Germany made an attempt to overrun Europe. What

happened when the Nazis came into power and persecuted the Jews in Germany,

Austria and Poland is well known as the Holocaust. Here, human’s evil side

provides one of the scariest occurrences of this century. Adolf Hitler and

his Nazi counterparts conducted raids of the ghettos to locate and often

exterminate any Jews they found. Although Jews are the most widely known

victims of the Holocaust, they were not the only targets. When the war

ended, 6 million Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah\'s Witnesses,

Communists, and others targeted by the Nazis, had died in the Holocaust.

Most of these deaths occurred in gas chambers and mass shootings. This

gruesome attack was motivated mainly by the fear of cultural intermixing

which would impurify the "Master Race."

Joseph Conrad ’s book, The Heart of Darkness and Francis Coppola’s 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, death, and cultural contamination.

During Marlow’s mission to find Kurtz , he is also trying to find himself.

He, like Kurtz had good intentions upon entering the Congo. 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. Marlow says

about himself, "I was getting savage (Conrad)," meaning that he was becoming

more like Kurtz. 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

it’s solitude. Marlow comes across simpler cannibalistic cultures along the

banks. The deeper into the jungle he goes, the more regressive 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, secluded 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, and was " a tree swayed by the wind (Conrad, 209)." Marlow

mentions the human heads displayed on posts that "showed that Mr. Kurtz

lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts (Conrad, 220)."

Conrad also tells us "his… nerves went wrong, and caused him to preside at

certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rights, which… were offered

up to him (Conrad, 208)," meaning that Kurtz went insane and allowed himself

to be worshipped 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. He describes Kurtz’s last moments "as though a veil had

been rent (Conrad, 239)." Kurtz’s last "supreme moment of complete knowledge

(Conrad, 239)," showed him how horrible the human soul really can be. Marlow

can only speculate as to what Kurtz saw that caused him to exclaim "The

horror! The horror," but later adds that "Since I peeped over the edge

myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare… it was wide enough to

embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that

beat in the darkness… he had summed up,

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Related Topics

Congo Free State, Heart of Darkness, Human trophy collecting, Novellas, Kurtz, Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad, Charles Marlow

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