Heart of Darkness/ Apocalypse Now




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Thesis statement

This paper describes how Heart of Darkness/ Apocalypse Now contains monsters and identifies them.

The  Heart of Darkness  by Joseph Conrad serves to provide a bridge between the ideals of modernism and Victorian values. This novel heavily relies on the ideas of heroism as they were traditionally conveyed similar to their Victorian predecessors. These ideas are heavily under constant attack in an evolving world as well as in faraway lands from England. Women are expected to take up traditional roles as the determinants of morality and domesticity, yet their presence in the novel is hardly felt. The concepts of civilization and home merely exist as ideals that happen to be hypothetical and lack meaning to men whose survival is constantly doubted.   Conrad’s characters are fairly concrete, ranging from violence and conspiracy as well as illness, they acquire a philosophical character in spite of this. Heart of Darkness is much centered on alienation, profound doubt and confusion as it is centered in imperialism.  Some excerpts found in the novel depicting different sides to people in the novel are discussed herein.

“What I mean is . . . maybe it’s only us”

These words are spoken by Simon in Chapter 5. This happens during a meeting. In this meeting the boys ponder on the question of the beast.  It is then proposed by a littlun that there is a possibility that the beast is hiding in the ocean during daytime and emerges at dusk. The boys then argue about whether the existence of the beast is factual or merely fictitious. It is then proposed by Simon that perhaps the beast is just the boys themselves. The suggestion os brushed off by the boys with laughter, these words vaguely agree with the point Golding was trying to elaborate. This point is that innate human evil exists. Simon sees the beast as a non external force. He is instead convinced that the beast is a component of human nature.

In this scenario, it is apparent that the boys are the monsters as they are quick to judge the beast without first trying to comprehend in depth what exactly the beast is and how it has come into existence as well. They quickly form perceptions about the beast and assume that the beast is some source of evil. It is only Simon, who tries to see beyond what mets the eye and is skeptical about the beast being an external force. He is apprehensive about that and he ponders that perhaps, the beast came about as a result of the action of human beings.

“There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”

These lines are spoken by The Lord of the Flies to Simon in Chapter 8. They are spoken in Simon’s vision in the glade. In chapter 5, Simon had speculated that perhaps, there was no beast, but the boy themselves were indeed the beast. The novel fully explores innate human savagery. Evil on the island is believed to be within the boys and thus this idea is in alignment with the idea of the book as a whole. The Lord of the Flies reveals that he is the beast as well as the fact that he exists within all human beings.  Simon, upon making this discovery, is baffled and he rushes to the boys in order to share his revelation with them.  The boy’s innate evil surfaces and they mistake Simon for the beast. This causes them to pounce upon him, killing him.

This further expounds on the initial concept that the boys are the monsters, since they bank on the assumption that Simon is the beast and this consequently results in their killing him. It has also been said that the innate human evil within the boys is what arose in them and caused them to kill him coupled with the assumption that Simon is the beast.

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of a true, wise friend called Piggy.

Toward the end of chapter 12, these lines come immediately after the encounter  of the boys with the naval officer. The naval officer has seem to have emerged out of nowhere and has come to save them. Ralph sees the officer, and realizes that he is within safety’s reach and that soon, he will be back to civilization. This realization is however short lived as he is plunged into a reflective despair. During the rescue, a realization dawns on Ralph. This is the realization that he will never be the same again. He is no longer innocent and he has learnt of the evil lurking in all human beings. Ralph feels that, he may have been saved from death on the island, but he will forever be a changed person. The sources o Ralph’s despair is connected explicitly to the end of innocence as well as the darkness of a man’s heart. This is therefore an implication that human beings are monsters, as it has been clearly suggested that a darkness lurks within each and every individual and innocence is an element that is no longer readily existent in man, no matter the height of civilization that an individual comes from.

If there ever was a movie to prove that war is hell, the movie is Apocalypse now. Apocalypse now is a movie that came out over three decades ago. Back in that time, America’s cinema industry was going through some sort of transitional phase. This movie truly explains how the horrors of war were dealt with back in that time, in comparison to the other movies which were just an ensemble of characters. This can be said because it truly got into the psychological mindset of how war really affects a person.

Apocalypse Now has continuously laid under the spotlight the ironies of the Vietnamese was and especially western imperialism generally. This film cannot generally be classified as antiwar, but however uses pain in the demonstration of the atrocities of the war that the United States fights with a bid to attaining freedom and democracy.

During the air strike, the bridge scenes and sampan, Coppola has clearly depicted the fatalities and losses that have resulted from the direct involvement of the government of the United States. It has been clearly demonstrated because it is seen that the American troops, instead of extending help to the innocent civilians, they kill them. These people are foreigners in a foreign land, but they however act like they are the indigenous owners. They stake out territories and fire without any provocation whatsoever. Some of the quotations from Apocalypse now are herein explained and how monsters are a reflection of their times.

Willard:    “It was the way we had over here of living with ourselves. We’d cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a Band-Aid. It was a lie—and the more I saw of them, the more I hated lies.”

These words are narrated by Willard shortly after he mercilessly shot a Vietnamese peasant woman. This shooting took place on the sampan. Upon the performance of this deed, he has made himself an accomplice to the cruelty of war. Through this act he has also closely aligned himself with Kurtz. Willard’s narration has completely detailed the U.S military and the hypocrisy that they exercise. Just prior to Willard’s shooting of the Vietnamese peasant woman, Clean mercilessly opened fire on the other Vietnamese peasants. Clean has killed several civilians who are also innocent and has suffered no consequences. Chie does not mention this but instead, makes a storm in a teacup about following orders as he attempts to take the woman to the hospital in the vicinity.  Although Clean kills several innocent civilians with no consequences, Chief makes no mention of it but instead makes a big deal of following orders by trying to take the woman to a nearby hospital.

This is a clear demonstration Willard can be regarded as a monster, as in seen in the senseless shooting of the peasant woman. This argument is further supported by the fact that this shooting was not provoked whatsoever. Like the legendary monster, the actions of Willard were impulsive, and uncalled for, as he did this without a second thought. The lack of regard for human life is clearly demonstrated here, as is seen in the reluctance of Chief to take the injured woman to hospital.

The lack of regard for human life is also demonstrated by the clear revelation of Willard of how people were cut with machine guns and then given band aids. The intentional and unprovoked injury and killing of people with no consequences whatsoever is a clear indication that in that time, people lacked humanity and regard for the human well- being was of little if not no importance at all.

General Corman:    “In this war, things get confused out there—power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity . . . because there’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph.”

These words were said by General Corman during lunch at  Nha Trang’s intelligence compound. They were said in explanation to the descent of Kurtz into insanity. During this scene, he was briefing Willard on his objective to do away with Kurtz. In this quotation, the basic premise of Apocalypse now has been delineated as it has taken a different direction in the alignment of war to insanity. Willard is thus faced with a journey which is both a metaphorical journey through the terrain of philosophy as well as an actual journey taking him upriver. Corman  has related the confusion that comes with war to the adoption of irrational and consequently evil paths.

In order to take part in a war, certain moral readjustments must be made, readjustments that will later overshadow morality completely. Humans, who come face to face with conflicts in their everyday lives, are faced with the atrocities of war that eventually exaggerate the conflicts until the heart has been overwhelmed with confusion, which sometimes results in eventual madness. This quote thus explains why the people in those times lacked humanity, and were thus termed as monsters, due to the madness or insanity that eventually was bestowed upon them due to the constant atrocities faced by them during the war. In this quote therefore, Corman implies that Kurtz has given in to the way of madness due to the various atrocities they faced, thus implying that Kurtz is a monster.

Kilgore: I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.

This line was said by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore to Captain Willard as they are on  the beach. Prior to the delivery of this line, Captain Kilgore had ordered the destruction of a Vietcong- controlled coastal village by a destructive helicopter. The tone used by Kilgore is uncharacteristic, and upon the bomb exploding behind him, Kilgore does not even as much as flinch. Kilgore is seen to have a character that can best be described as invulnerable and uncanny as is demonstrated in the delivery of this quotation. This quote has also elaborated how far the effects of the war have reached in his mentality. The idiosyncrasies of war have also been spoken of in the quote as the description of the celebration of the smell of napalm has been compared to the smell of victory.

In this case, Kilgore is illustrated to be a monster, as is seen by his indifference upon the explosion of the bomb. It is also important to note that he is the one who was behind the ordering of the destruction, and this shows that he is heartless. He does not take into consideration what devastating effects the destruction of that village will have on the occupants and seems if anything, to be proud of his accomplishment. This is seen in the quote when he related the smell of the ongoing destruction to the smell of Napalm. Kilgore’s heartlessness and eagerness for death and destruction is displayed by his character and he is seen to have deep seated beliefs that advocate for the same vices. He therefore holds steadfast to these beliefs and implements them to the letter, not considering the fact that the people his directions are directed to are human beings as well with human needs and desires, just as he is.

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