Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness to disguise his disapproval of European imperialism in the Congo. He describes the chaos and savagery found in the Congo to convince Europeans that they should stay out of Africa. Francis Ford Coppola made Apocalypse Now to disguise his disapproval of American involvement in Vietnam. He depicts the merciless slaughter of countless Vietnamese to show Americans that the United States does more harm than good in Vietnam. In each instance, the creator’s country claims one goal, but accomplishes something entirely different when in battle. Marlow and Willard face the corruption, personified by Kurtz, differently, but both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now explore the convictions of the human heart when faced with evil.
Although they both obsess over finding Kurtz, they act out of two completely different motives. Marlow, a curious seaman, procures a job with a shipping company, so he can explore the old “blank spaces” on his childhood map, not because he wants to stop Kurtz’s mad reign. Willard, a hardened soldier, travels to Vietnam planning to kill Kurtz and end his corruption. Marlow plans to help Kurtz and wants to help him recover from his mental breakdown. Willard, on the other hand, watches Kurtz in bewilderment and despises his madness. Conrad shows that Marlow cares about Kurtz by revealing Marlow’s curiosity in their conversations on the boat. Coppola creates Kurtz’s sanctum as a sullen cellar where Willard waits in bewilderment as Kurtz’s madness fills the air like the smoke that surrounds him. Although their techniques are different, Conrad and Coppola show the intense internal struggle that Marlow and Willa...
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...ally in Marlow’s head on the pages after he hears them, and they resonate audibly to Willard minutes after he hears them. Despite their deferent mediums, Conrad and Coppola both create the mood of hopelessness and fear by repeating two simple words.
The motifs “horror” and “darkness” resonate throughout both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now because both Conrad and Coppola want to the show the danger of allowing darkness to penetrate the human heart. Everything from the vivid descriptions of destruction in Heart of Darkness to the music in Apocalypse Now promotes the theme of human darkness. Conrad’s descriptions of the savage Congo and Coppola’s depictions of the blood-soaked Vietnam serve to show the deadly consequences that human darkness carries. If humans succumb to the “darkness” of their hearts, they will surely face “the horror” of total destruction.
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