Apocalypse Now

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 4

Kurtz:   “It’s judgment that defeats us.”

Here, Kurtz, in his quarters, attempts to indoctrinate Willard with his ideas. Willard, freed from the tiger cage and allowed to roam throughout the compound, internalizes Kurtz’s philosophy. This quotation is part of a longer monologue in which Kurtz compares the Vietcong’s combat methods to those of U.S. troops, explaining why the Vietcong will inevitably win the war. Their victory is sealed because they use their primordial instincts to murder without emotion or judgment. Kurtz believes that moral judgment is out of place in war and serves only to thwart victory. Accordingly, only the ruthless can win. With this quotation and its encompassing monologue, Kurtz also explains to Willard why he himself chose to give in to the temptations of the jungle, to deify himself among the Montagnard tribe, and to practice behavior devoid of moral constraints. His justification for this lifestyle is that judgment “defeats us.” It prevents soldiers from winning the war, and it prevents humans from realizing their full potential to live as one with the primitive nature both outside and within them.