In the interpretation and comparison of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now there begins to unfold a list of similarities that can be linked to Arturian legend, particularly the quest of the grail. Marlow, or Willard can be viewed as the knight who has been sent on a mythic quest, the specific task being the recovery or assassination of Kurtz, the mythic god-man linked to the Fisher King in Arthurian romance. Conrad specifically modeled his novel on these legends, while Coppola expanded on the concept, using Conrad as a stepping off point and drawing from J.G. Frazer's The Golden Bough and J. Weston's From Ritual to Romance. I will examine the questers purpose for traveling into the heart of darkness, a void in the midst of a burgeoning jungle that has become a fecund waste land. View the quester as he comes in contact with a mysterious god-man or divine king whose own demise has contributed to the demise of the surrounding atmosphere, and how Marlow, and in turn Willard, deal with this figure, known as Kurtz. Finally I will discuss why Apocalypse Now fails as a recreation of Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
The Task of the Hero
In Arthurian legend a certain task is placed, or rather imposed upon the grail hero, whether that hero be Gawain, Perceval, or Galahad. He sets out on a journey with no clear idea of the task before him, except that he, at the bidding of King Arthur, must find the grail, and that he is taking the place of a mysterious knight that set out before him but was killed. The quest of the grail eventually gives way, as the story unfolds, to the knights healing of the Fisher King (the watcher of the grail), who has fallen gravely ill and w...
... middle of paper ...
... sun beats,
And the dead tree gives us no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness, New York, Penguin Books 1983
Weston, Jessie L. From Ritual to Romance, New Jersey, Princeton Press 1993
Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough(abridged version), New York, Macmillian Publishing Company, 1950
Malory, Sir Thomas. Le Morte d'Arthur, Oxford Press, 1967
Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land and Other Poems, New York, London, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, 1988
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