Study Guide

Apocalypse Now Scene 13

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Scene 13

Scene 13

A Judgment-Free Zone

  • Kurtz's people take Willard out of his cage and try to feed him. Kurtz walks over and watches.
  • Kurtz recites lines from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men," while the journalist rants at Willard about "dialectics" and space travel. Irritated, Kurtz throws the book at the journalist.
  • In the voiceover, Willard wonders if the generals would still want him to kill Kurtz. (Yeah, probably, he concludes.) He also wonders what Kurtz's family would think of Kurtz if they could see him.
  • Kurtz talks to Willard about how the horrible things he's doing are "necessary" and that "horror" and "moral terror" should be your friends, tools to help you get things done.
  • He recollects going into a camp with the Special Forces to inoculate children for polio. A villager dragged them back, and they discovered that the enemy had hacked off all the inoculated arms and piled them up.
  • Kurtz says that after he cried about this, he realized it was genius—it was the kind of brutality you need to use to wage war, in his opinion. It was superior strength.
  • He says you need to have men who are moral and yet can use their "primordial instincts to kill" without judgment. "It's judgment that defeats us," he concludes.
  • Then he wishes that someone would go back to his home, after he's dead, and explain to his son the truth about what happened. He asks Willard to do this for him (which implies that Kurtz knows Willard will kill him).

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