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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Analysis Throughout the film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, characters such as Howard portray wisdom as a characteristic that should be innate within all of us. The significance of wisdom has been lost in the minds of individuals and has instead been replaced with avarice. That constant desire for more virtually destroys a person and thus leaves the individual with his or her own consequence. This film does an excellent job of portraying how a wise individual is complacent with his surroundings and how avarice overshadows an individual’s human nature, thus resulting in the individual’s fall. Wisdom plays a vital role in illustrating how avarice shows its true nature in a person. In the film, John Huston, the director, illustrates how wisdom manifests itself within the character Howard. Throughout the film, Howard shows different signs that prove that he is a wise man, not the fool. Wisdom, essentially knowledge/understanding, is manifested in Howard in the scene where he educates his two friends about the importance of water over gold. He informs his pals, Fred C. Dobbs and Bob Curtin, after watching them pour valuable water over supposed gold, that “water is sometimes more precious than gold.” Here, Howard has insight about the importance of the world and therefore has knowledge about what is valuable in life. Dobbs, one of the two men, responds with searching for the real gold, thus disregarding Howard’s sensible words. Dobbs’ response to this indicates his avarice, completely ignoring Howard’s wisdom. This attitude soon turns into resentment towards wisdom and ultimately descends into Dobbs’ own self-destruction. Pursuing this further, wisdom is an important trait within all of us and therefore should be executed as such. In other words, people will lose themselves if they do not understand the nature of life or themselves. Without wisdom, people lose their perspective and therefore cannot grasp the nature of their existence. According to the Philosophy Class Lecture, one has to have a

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greater understanding of the universal and that will give a greater understanding of one’s own self and the situations here on earth (9). Without knowledge or understanding, one has no purpose of existing. Furthermore, without understanding, one’s desire for obtaining more becomes insignificant. This, unfortunately, occurs to the character of Dobbs within the film. His constant need for an excessive amount of gold inevitably leads him to his doom. Instead of pondering on the wise advice from Howard, Dobbs, overshadowed by avarice, continually ignores it. Not once in the film does he stop to contemplate the beauty of their journey together or the essence of the mountains they were climbing. For instance, when Howard informs the men that they have to “close the wound” of the mountain, Dobbs stands in disbelief. Explaining how this act is necessary, “at least for showing gratitude for all the wealth she’s given us,” Howard portrays someone who realizes the importance of giving back to Mother Nature. In response, Dobbs initially scoffs it off, but then agrees to lend a hand. This exemplifies how a wise man tries to teach morals and loyalty to a man filled with avarice. Unfortunately, this task fails. Instead, the scene gives insight into how a man filled with avarice overlooks a knowledgeable message in ignorance. Of course, if one decides not to acknowledge the importance of this world, that person will inevitably fall to his or her own demise. It is essential for people to self-actualize themselves as well as the world around them. Thus, one can receive wisdom. Without knowledge and understanding, what does civilization come to? The reason why Dobbs fell to his own demise due to his avarice nature was because he did not grasp the concept of understanding the “big picture.” An important element of wisdom that falls into the category of the big picture is realization of the objective truth. Dobbs, in the film, did not have a perspective that was open for understanding the objective truth. According to the Philosophy Class Lecture, we cannot think

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without having a sense of limitations, of the finite. There is an objective truth (11). People, like Dobbs, have their own truths/perspectives and therefore are missing the big picture. Throughout the motion picture, it is apparent that Howard notices his friend’s entrapment to society for missing the bigger picture. In one scene, Howard divides the found gold in three halves for each to have his own share. While splitting the gold, Howard observes Dobbs, who is entranced with the gold’s glimmer. At that moment, Howard knows that his friend is obsessed with the abundance of gold and is a fundamental slave to his own environment. Undoubtedly, avarice is a trait that is innate in human nature and therefore cannot be taken lightly. However, one cannot use that excuse to further obtain what one already has. Throughout the film, Dobbs’ character shows more and more signs that his obsession for more gold will become the downfall of his human nature. Throughout The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Dobbs’ obsession drives him to the conclusion that his two friends are against him. Suspecting that Howard and Curtin are trying to steal his gold, Dobbs goes into different signs of hysteria such as speaking to himself. This is the beginning of avarice showing its true colors, as well as demonstrating the downfall of his human nature. Another instance where avarice turns a person to madness occurs when Dobbs, having supposedly murdered Curtin, again starts talking to himself. His madness converts into panic as he suspects his victim is still alive. This personifies the fall of a person’s human nature as a result of not paying attention to a friend’s wisdom. Throughout the film, Howard displays a side of wisdom that translates to contentment. While on their journey, there are instances in which Howard’s spirits are high, and he is undoubtedly enjoying life’s riches. He not only personifies this, however, as he tries to encourage the two men to let go of their search for gold and instead pay more attention to what’s

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most important in life. This wisdom once again manifests itself when Howard informs the boys to “stop worrying about the gold and go to bed,” thus teaching the men that gold is not a necessity; rather it is an obsessive need. This film does a productive job of exemplifying how one who understands the “bigger picture” tries to teach those morals to someone filled with avarice and does not succeed. According to Aristotle, “he, who can learn things that are difficult, and not easy for man to know, is wise” (111). It is apparent that Howard portrays these characteristics and tries to teach them to his friend, only to fail miserably. This film teaches that understanding the “bigger picture” of this world is essential. If people disregard that message, then their innate desire for more will predictably cause them to fall into their own madness, thus resulting in the fall of their human nature. According to Whitehead, he says that “life degenerates when enclosed within the shackles of mere conformation” (79). This is exactly what happens to Howard when his avarice nature gets the best of him. As he becomes more attached to the materialistic fixation of the world, he begins to corrupt himself. What happens to Dobbs is a series of events that results in the fall of his human nature. After having worrying about whether his victim survived, he takes Curtin’s gold and rides off the following morning. While alone on the desert, his appearance seems one of a homeless man. While resting, Dobbs encounters some unexpected visitors. The visitors end up murdering Dobbs, stealing his gold in the process. Clearly, then this unfortunate tragedy displays how people who constantly pursue wealth will end up losing a greater gem--themselves. Dobbs, having not learned from the words of wisdom, allowed his avarice nature to overpower him, affecting his acts, and eventually destroying his human nature. Gonzalez gave insight as to how Dobbs continually scoffed off Howard’s enlightening words: “when confronted by wisdom, Fred C. Dobbs antagonizes

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Howard in the only manner that a fool can: he struggles against himself” (2). There were many instances in the film where Dobbs could have given a second’s thought towards Howard’s perspective on life. This could have perhaps altered his unfortunate fate of self-destruction. Instead of allowing the unwelcomed visitors to take the gold to possibly save his life, Dobbs listens to his avarice nature and it results in tragedy. Dobbs’ fall is one that may have been prevented if he would have listened to those words of wisdom. Human nature, natural characteristics such as feeling, thinking, and acting, alter greatly when one has a specific mentality. The human nature of Dobbs changed drastically when he first learned about obtaining great amounts of wealth. Early on, the human nature of both Dobbs and Howard differed. While Howard, although pursuing wealth, was more there for the adventure, Dobbs had the state of mind of “acquiring more wealth”. An example of this is when Howard first tells the men about the adventure and how they planned to achieve great amounts of gold. Dobbs proudly announces, “I’m just gonna dream about gold piling on gold—higher and higher.” At that moment, his feelings and thoughts towards obtaining more gold intensifies and becomes an obsession. This ultimately results in him acting strange as demonstrated above and his avarice state corrupts him to the point where he loses himself. This all could have been prevented if Dobbs had simply applied a wise man’s lesson about life’s riches to his own situation. Howard’s and Curtin’s fate differs from Dobbs’ in the film. One man (Howard), understanding the world around him, is rewarded for his outlook. The other (Curtin) learns from the wise man and discovers a new viewpoint on life. According to Aristotle, he says that “the wise man knows all things, as far as possible, although he has not knowledge of each of them in detail” (111). This quote personifies Howard’s outlook of the world and thus connects with

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Dobbs’ ignorance of the world. It is apparent throughout the film that Howard, although not well educated, has had many experiences in his lifetime. This, therefore, allows Howard to view Dobbs for what he is—an obsessive man for more wealth. Dobbs, on the other hand, understands the importance of gold and living in prosperity. However, he fails to acknowledge that understanding the essence of life is the real “gold”. According to the Philosophy Class Lecture “once people get the qualitative understanding of human existence, they won’t miss anything” (10). This is an understanding that Howard tries to communicate to Dobbs’ avarice nature, but does not succeed. On the other hand, Bob Curtin comprehended Howard’s wise perspective. As a result, they both came to the conclusion that understanding life’s riches defeats any avarice nature one may have. While Dobbs allows avarice to control him and this inescapably leads him to the fall of his human nature, Curtin grows from the experience and becomes a better human being. An instance of this occurs at the end of the film, after Howard and Curtin realize that the gold’s forever gone. Instead of yelling in frustration, Howard reacts by laughing and responding with, “the gold’s back at the same place we’ve found it.” Curtin soon joins in, realizing that the adventure was never about the gold. Yes, the gold served as an important element, but the real gold they found was the relationship they formed with each other. As well as a new found respect for Mother Nature. Another instance where, unlike Dobbs, Curtin recognized wisdom and therefore understood the greater meaning of life was the scene where all three men were discussing the found gold. Curtin informs his friends that he plans to give Cody’s family some of his gold due to Cody’s help. The character of Cody appeared to the voyagers early in the story but was killed while assisting them in a small battle. This action from Curtin shows signs of understanding that

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there is a bigger picture in life. This results in Bob Curtin’s human nature rising. Instead of allowing avarice to overshadow his thoughts and feelings, Curtin takes control by realizing what is most important. In this respect, Bob Curtin and Howard’s human nature differs from Cobbs’ human nature. While Cobbs’ human nature falls when his avarice destroys him, Curtin and Howard’s human nature rises as they both appreciate the “bigger picture” of the world, thus attaining wisdom in the process. As a result they are both rewarded for it. Indeed, the director of the film, John Huston, successfully portrays how avarice can destroy a person while wisdom can improve a person. Throughout the film, Huston exemplifies how the three elements, wisdom, avarice, and human nature connect. Without wisdom, people will become a slave to their environment, thus desiring more than they already have. Huston does an outstanding job of showing how avarice can turn a person, thus affecting the person’s human nature. Therefore, while using these three essential elements, Huston demonstrates how people must understand the world in order for them not to fall victim to their own avarice nature.

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Works Cited Aristotle, W. D. Ross, and Justin Kaplan. "Metaphysics Book I." The Pocket Aristotle. New York: Washington Square, 1958. 110-11. Print. Philosophy Class Lecture. "Class Notes." 26 Sept. 2011. (9-11). Gonzalez, Pedro B. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Or, Socrates in the Desert." Film Victoria, 23 June 2011. Web (2). The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Dir. John Huston. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston. Warner Home Video, 1948. DVD. Whitehead, Alfred North. "Lecture Four Perspective." Modes of Thought. New York: Free, 1968. 79. Print.