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Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, and Hollow Men Essays

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Façade of Civilization Exposed in Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, and Hollow Men


"Civilization", like "democracy" is something of a loaded term. For democracy there is a straightforward definition; a democracy is a society where the members of that society vote for their political leaders. "Democracy" can also refer to a set of social attitudes that individuals can possess. For instance, a snob possesses attitudes that can be described as "undemocratic" regardless of his or her participation in the political process of his or her own society. The term civilization literally means a society which has reached a high level of organization and development, which can be characterized by highly specified division of labor, monumental architecture, a redistributive economy, and a highly developed degree of literacy, among other things. The term "civilization" also refers to a set of attitudes and behavior that Western society has adopted as being consonant with the literal definition of civilization. A "civilized" individual is one who is well-educated, moral, virtuous, humanitarian, and possesses a degree of innate "nobility." In today's world these terms, and therefore the term "civilization", are understood throughout the world according to their European definitions, and therefore they are, to a certain degree, ethno-centric. This is because of the predominant role European civilization has played in shaping world civilization. With the exception of Japan, every place on earth has been occupied and administered by a European power for a significant period of time during the last five hundred years. Today the world's understanding of how nations should govern themselves is with constitutions patterned after European models, w...


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...ion", and that sense of loss is "the horror." For them the Apocalypse, the end of civilization had come, and when Kurtz meets his mortal end, it's not with a bang but a whimper.

            Western Civilization has risen to produce what are arguably some of the highest, most virtuous ideals of mankind. The message that The Hollow Men and Apocalypse Now give is that in Western Civilization's quest for self-aggrandizement, those ideals get lost. What is left is but the empty façade, the hollow men, and in the hearts and minds of the hollow men, the apocalypse descends and "civilization" ends not with a bang but a whimper.

Works Cited:

Conrad, James. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Great Britain,
BPC paperbacks ltd. 1990.

Eliot, Thomas Stearns. “The Hollow Men.” The Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950.
New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1971.



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