“Heart of Darkness” vs. “Apocalypse Now” Essay

It is very interesting how humans are so intrigued about the evilness in the world, and the dedication of some men to compare Hell with the Earthly horror. Joseph Conrad, a genius writer, took his time to show this with his masterpiece “Heart of Darkness” that was later on an amazing inspiration for the director Francis Ford Coppola, that based his film on Conrad’s novel. Different parallels can be drawn when comparing and contrasting these two works.

These differences and similarities can be seen in themes, characters, events and other small snippets of information including anything from quoted lines to strange actions of the main characters. To start with, is important the set in context regarding the setting of both stories. “Heart of Darkness” takes place in the Belgian colony in Congo, in the heart of Africa. This colony was set in order to extract ivory from animals such as elephants or rhinoceros.

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But there was another important aim: carrying the light of European civilization, “civilized the savage”. On the other hand, “Apocalypse Now” is set during the Vietnam War, in Nung River in Cambodia. United States became involved in the conflict because its policymakers feared the spread of communism. China and much of Eastern Europe were already under communist control, and U. S. leaders felt they could not “lose” Southeast Asia as well. The United States helped install an anticommunist prime minister, Ngo Dinh Diem, in South Vietnam.

This setting in context and place lead is to find the main concepts behind both stories. As regards Conrad’s work, the line of the events depicts the truth of senses of colonialism and imperialism (that are the policies of extending national authority over foreign territories), stating the they had the “best” intentions to “civilize the savages” , even though they had to kill the and miss treat them in order to do this, to show their power and authority. The point is: Are their intentions justifying the things they are doing?

But, in Coppola’s film, the American’s viewpoint of communism and capitalism( that are the systems of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state), due to the setting and time period and pulls in some political viewpoint based on the era. Anyway, was the spread of communism the actual reason why the U. S government decided to invade? As the war progressed, an unprecedented antiwar movement emerged in America. Millions participated in protests, teach-ins, and riots.

The movement was fuelled by public confusion as to the reasons for the U. S. invasion. The director takes advantage of these confusion the illustrate his opinion and the incite the viewers opinion too. Talking about the characters, it is important to make parallels between the main characters of both works. To start with, we have Marlow character in “Heart of Darkness”, who is sent to the Congo as ivory agent and when he arrives he is told about Kurtz, another ivory agent, that is lost in the jungle and apparently “sick”.

This character can be compared to Captain Willard, who is sent on a mission to Vietnam no kill one of his own. Both of them learn about the battle between good and evil, and the evil that the jungle can bring out in anyone. One great similarity is the ability both of them have to hold back from succumbing to the “darkness” of the jungle, by kipping their integrity and sticking to their goals. Nevertheless, both of the men had different backgrounds before they began their journey. Marlow was an experienced sailor, while Willard was an experienced warrior. Willard was a man who went to hell and back in Vietnam.

His soul was already corrupted and only got worse while his journey to Kurtz continued. Marlow was a man who just wanted a job. The second characters of great relevance to compare are Kurtz from “Heart of Darkness” and Cornel Kurtz form “Apocalypse Now”. On the novel, Marlow respect Kurtz in the beginning because he is a hardworking ivory agent, but as the plot develops, he begins to dislike him and even fear him. On the contrary, Willard doesn’t like Kurtz, but as the story progresses, he becomes fond of him and sorts of envy him. The character of Kurtz is very similar in both the novel and the movie.

They are men with a reputation for being powerful and mysterious, but at some point of the story they both abandon their work and duties and become mentally unstable. Conrad’s Kurtz goes deep into de jungle to “civilize de Africans” but as he drips deeper the darkness of the jungle and the savages change him. Coppola’s Kurtz has an impressive military history, but as he enter the jungle and faces war, his skills are not enough. Both of the loose touch with the world and became insane. Other aspect of these novels worthy to analyze are the themes. One of these is straightly related to the character is MADNESS or insanity.

We can clearly see this with the quote used in both stories “The horror! The horror”[1], in “Heart of Darkness” It is said by Kurtz just before dying of malaria, and in “Apocalypse Now” it is said by Willard just before killing Kurtz. Both of these characters show a mental instability. But, what is “the horror” they are talking about? Both film and novel are trying to show through these events that the real horror is human beings themselves. Another theme to compare is good vs. evil, light vs. dark and right vs. wrong. Who are the monsters in these stories? To analyze this we can base on HYPOCRTISIM.

In “Heart of Darkness” Europeans want to civilize the Africans, but are they acting civilized to do this? Just like Americans in “Apocalypse Now” they are blind by the ideas of imperialisms. To end up, these themes are also shown by RACISM. Mutilation, murder and mistreatment is shown in both works towards Africans, even in “Apocalypse Now” black people are persecuted, killed and called “gukes” or “savages”. In conclusion, a great number of parallels can be drawn between Coppola’s and Conrad’s works. Tough in different context, one being a film and another a novel, both prove to be effective in showing “the horror” of human actions.

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