The Vulnerability of Man Essay example

The Vulnerability of Man Essay example

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The Vulnerability of Man

     Nature dwarfs us. The jungle absorbs us. Struggling to survive in the middle of an enticing jungle, one truly challenges his own restraints to the temptation of the jungle – of the horror of an abyss which lies so closely beneath us. All of our days and ways are a fragile structure balanced agitatedly atop the hungry jaws of nature that will effortless devour us. A happy life is a daily amnesty from this knowledge. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now share a common theme where the feeble human cannot restrain the domination of the jungle. Those who live in a fool’s paradise will die in a fool’s paradise, and those who discover the horrors of life will die in the jungle. Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now and Captain Kurtz in Heart of Darkness have both been lured into a “God-like” life in the jungle. Willard and Marlow both travel a long way down a river to attempt to rescue Kurtz, or kill him. The Kurtz in both stories have lost restraint to the wilderness, while Willard and Marlow fight hard to keep theirs.
     The opening scene in the movie captures a distraught Willard having just returned from the Vietnam War. Willard is pouncing around in his hotel room as though a savage. Only later it is revealed that he is resisting the temptation of returning to the jungle. “When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there all I could think about was getting back in the jungle” (Captain Willard). This scene suggests Willard’s strength to resist temptation. Having already escaped from Vietnam once, he will do it again. The matter is however, the difficulty of withstanding the jungle is like pulling two burly magnets in opposite directions. Willard himself deals with a desire to escape into the jungle. He is uncertain of his reasons, but his physicality and mentality demands it. In Apocalypse Now, the Vietnam War only plays a surface role, a parallel for the jungle, in which both display the effects of corruption and destruction on man. The true significance of the story lays beneath the surface, as the horror of existence, the horror of strength, and the horror of an ability to kill without feeling.
     In the beginning of the novel, Marlow and four other Englishmen are stranded close to the mouth of the Thames Riv...


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...ad put his restraint to test eventually swallowed him whole. As does in Apocalypse Now, both Kurtz’ die saying “The horror. The horror.” While the definition of this “horror” is clearly defined in Apocalypse Now, it is left unclear in The Heart of Darkness. These words might have no larger meaning at all. Though there is a constituent of madness to Kurtz, he's remained coherent enough for the audience to wonder whether in casting off all restraints in the jungle, he has discovered some dark truth about the world, a truth that horrifies him. His words might be a pronouncement on the universe we all inhabit, as in Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurtz’s discovery of how fragile men live their lives is easily tempted by the wilderness, and most will fall into this trap.
     In the Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, the stories contain symbolic imagery of the all-too-powerful nature against the defenseless man. Both stories contain a horror of which one has been given a definition, and the other left for the audience to define. The stories examine a man’s capacity for evil and madness, and the level of self-control necessary to survive the manipulation of nature.

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