Another soldier feels a deep excitement, “as if he were witnessing creation”–a feeling that seems to typify the soldiers’ reactions to the jungle. Their experience in the jungle is instinctive, pre-verbal, almost visceral in many cases. The experience precedes what the rational mind can codify, what the reasonable mind can articulate.
Not even a mind as reasonable and as fine as that of General Cummings can quite put into words what the jungle means; however, he comes closest. He is obsessed with bringing order to the primal world in which he finds himself, ordering the land cleared and a world of officers’ tents set out in a neat alignment of ninety-degree designs, only to have the clearing overgrown in a few days or to have an unexpected storm play havoc with his plans and labors. The jungle itself seems to be his one unconquerable enemy: Heat licks at everything; foliage grows to prodigious sizes; the jungle is never silent. After a week of fumbling through the jungle, the “military concept of connected lines seemed no more than a concept.”
Mount Anaka. Peak on Anopopei that Hearn’s platoon is to climb across so that it can attack the enemy position from its rear. The mission is a fool’s errand at best, and at worst it is suicidal, as Hearn comes to realize. Nevertheless, he feels compelled to proceed. He feels a primal attraction to the mountain, almost as if it were a woman. He feels a desire to assault the mountain, capture, dominate, and subdue it. However, he also knows that these thoughts are ridiculous.
Sergeant Croft’s reaction is not quite so easily harnessed. The jungle and an enemy ambush awaken a dark place in his soul. Killing, being on the brink of being killed, being part of a jungle ecosystem completely beyond the boundaries of anything civilized and ordered arouses in Croft an erotic desire of tangible dimensions. Croft can not articulate this, not with ease, at least; all he knows is that something primal within him is responding to the jungle itself. He can almost put this into words the first time he sees the mountain through his field glasses: He feels a thrill of anticipation at the thought that the patrol might be at its peak by the following night. He feels a “crude ecstasy.”