Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness

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, humanís 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 Conradís book, The Heart of Darkness and Francis Coppolaís movie,
Apocalypse Now are both stories about Manís 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 Marlowís 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 itís
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 "hisÖ
nerves went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending
with unspeakable rights, whichÖ 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 Kurtzís last moments "as though a veil had been rent
(Conrad, 239)." Kurtzís 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 stareÖ it was wide enough to embrace the whole
universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darknessÖ
he had summed up, he had judged (Conrad, 241)." Marlow