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
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,