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Human Nature in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now Essay

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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 Kurt...


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...s 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 become, Kurtz.


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