Heart of Darkness

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The Novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is about an Ivory agent, Marlow, who is also the narrator of his journey up the Congo River into the heart of Africa. Marlow witnesses many new things during his journey to find Mr. Kurtz. In Apocalypse Now, the narrator is Captain Willard, who is also on a journey to find Kurtz. The Kurtz in the movie however is an American colonel who broke away from the American army and decided to hide away in Cambodia, upon seeing the reality of the Vietnam War. The poem “The Hollow Men” talks about how humans’ “hollowness” affects their lives and often leads to the destruction of one’s life. These three works all deal with similar issues, and are related to one another in many ways, and also share somewhat similar themes.
Marlow in the novella is on a mission to find Mr. Kurtz, who is a well-respected ivory agent in Europe, but is believed to be using “unsound methods” to find and trade ivory in Africa, and also his cruel treatment of the African laborers. Marlow becomes interested in knowing Mr. Kurtz, upon hearing such rumors. he becomes even more interested after seeing, “black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids- a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.” The heads are perhaps an important part of this novella, and they show how much Mr. Kurtz had changed. Another similar scene is in the movie, where Captain Willard sees all the heads of those who opposed colonel Kurtz. Both of these scenes show how both Kurtzes had changed and how their surroundings had transformed them into different people. Although he is not paralyzed similar to the “hollow men” in T.S. Elliot’s poem, he was one of the “lost and violent souls.” His lack of moral or spiritual strength to sustain him caused him to turn into a barbarian. Kurtz becomes aware of this when he is close to dying, and that is why he mentions, “The horror! The horror!”
One of the biggest and probably most important themes in this novella is the effects and outcome of imperialism in Africa. Kurtz is a perfect example of how the Europeans went into Africa to “civilize” the Africans but ended up failing in doing...

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...on a river in the middle of a jungle, the Congo River in the book and the Nung River in the movie. Based on personal observations, it seemed that both Marlow and Willard were traveling upstream as opposed to downstream, and one could only assume that going upstream would be more difficult than going downstream. In a way this could be interpreted as how the Europeans were not wanted in Africa and the Americans were not wanted in Vietnam.
In conclusion, the movie, the poem and the Novella have many similarities and many differences, even though this paper does not mention too many differences. Although this paper is mostly focused on the two Kurtz characters and their impact on their surroundings and vice-versa, there are many other similarities, themes, and symbols that one could find by reading the novella and the poem and watching the movie. Although the poem “The Hallow Men” was not mentioned too often in this paper, it does have many connections with the novella. One obvious example in the poem is the starting line which is from the novella and says, “Mistah Kurtz-he dead.” Thus one could possibly find many connections and similarities between these three works of literature.
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