Heart of Darkness vs. Apocalypse Now

Heartof Darkness vs. Apocalypse Now

Heartof Darkness is a novel by Joseph Conrad. The novel’s setting isCongo in the late 19thcentury. Marlow, one of the characters in the book travels to Africausing a steamboat. The boat passes through a dark wilderness, hencethe name ‘Heart of Darkness.` The Company sends Marlow on a missionto find an ivory trader and a philosopher, referred to as Kurtz. Thenovel has a movie version, ‘Apocalypse Now’ directed by FrancisFord. The film’s setting is in Vietnam, which begins in a militarycamp where Captain Willard is sent on a mission to assassinate Col.Walter Kurtz. The paper illustrates that there is plot, characters,themes, use of symbols and tone similarities and differences betweenthe book and the film.

Thenovel’s plot is simple as Marlow begins without a job but secures acontract with “The Company” as a riverboat captain, a companythat dealt in the export of ivory from Congo. Marlow expected to meeta champion of civilization, but he instead finds Kurtz as someone whohas fallen to savagery and only laments of his dreams. This isevident where Kurtz says, “My intended, my station, my career, myideas….” (3.37). The natives worshiped Kurtz and Marlow facedhostilities from them as he tried to take Kurtz away. After allMarlow’s effort of saving Kurtz, he dies on the journey due toillness. The devastating experiences that Marlow goes through inCongo symbolize a dark and corrupted society. During his search forKurtz, he encounters greedy traders and an insane Kurtz. Marlow findsindividuals in Congo who have lost the sense of society. People therehave no respect for anybody`s character.

ApocalypseNow also has a simple plot. It tells of Willard’s experiences inVietnam War and his urge to assassinate a fellow army officer Col.Walter Kurtz. He is sent to Cambodia where Kurtz who at the timecontrols the natives captures him. Kurtz, however, allows Willard toassassinate him.

Asone can see from the above explanation, there are many similaritiesbetween the novel’s plot and that of the movie. One similarity isthat both uses jungle as the gateway through time. Through thejungle, the mode of transport used is a river, River Congo in ‘Heartof Darkness` and the Nung River in the film ‘Apocalypse Now.` Theyboth encounter horrors in the Jungle as works progress, as opposed tothe beginning of the works. In the novel, the City of Brussels isbeautiful and expansive. In the end, Kurtz`s compound is full ofheads on pikes. In the film, Willard starts with beautifully arrangeddinner and comforts of home. He ends up in Vietnam dealing withhorrors of the jungle. Conrad and Ford seem to show the jungle`ssavage nature to the point that the immoral actions become acceptablein the society.

Charactersused in the novel and film have some similarities and differences.One notable similarity is the character Kurtz in both the novel andthe movie. The novel has a character by the name Kurtz as well as thefilm. Both Kurtz are a threat to the leaders, a reason why bothMarlow and Willard are in search of Kurtz. The reason why they are athreat is that they expose the motives and methods of theirsuperiors. Additionally, they are both famous, mainly among thenatives, another reason that terrifies the superiors. However, thereare some differences between the characters in the book and film. Forexample, Willard begins as a person who has already been accustomedto horrors. Marlow, on the other hand, had never encountered horrorbefore. He did not travel to Congo to give his life a purpose or forbeing desperate like Willard. Instead, he wanted to satisfy hisexploration thirst. The horrors he encounters in Congo makes himbecome accustomed to horror.

Boththe book and the film have many similar themes. One theme is theimperialism. In Heart of Darkness, the rich nations seem to exploitAfrican countries for goods like ivory. In the film, Americansoldiers are fighting to end communism in Vietnam. Another dominanttheme in the novel and the film is man’s weakness to fall to hisdarker side. Power and jungle make the characters to show their darksides. A good example is Kurtz, a central character in both the bookand the film. The main dark side illustrated is madness. Francis Fordillustrates this dark side well than Conrad as he captures Kurtz’smadness due to the Vietnam War. In addition, a section in the moviestates, “sometimes, a dark side overcomes….the better angels ofour nature.” (General Corman, 00:15:57).

Useof symbols is also dominant in the book and the novel. One symbol isthe river, which symbolizes a journey beyond civilization to horrors.It also symbolizes transformation. Fog is another symbol present inthe book and the novel. It seems to symbolize confusion andalienation. Fog makes Willard and his crew vulnerable to anyone, thusmaking them an easy target. In the book, Fog confuses Marlow. Heloses the idea of his direction and what lies ahead.

Thebook mainly utilizes a somber and depressing tone in describing thehorrors and darkness of the jungle along River Congo. The use of darkforest brings out the somber tone in the book. The film, on the otherhand, utilizes a sad tone. For example, a sad tone is evident whenKurtz offers Willard to kill him.

Boththe book and the film have many similarities as above explained. Theauthor of the novel and the film’s producer are illustratingimperialism and man’s weakness to fall to his dark side. The twoworks also uses similar character like Kurtz. Willard in the film andMarlow in the novel go through almost similar experiences in thejungles. The two characters also fall into their dark sides. Othersimilarities are evident in the themes such as imperialism and use ofsymbols like the rivers and the fog. The film and the book also havesome differences. Willard had already experienced horrors beforegoing to his mission in Vietnam but Marlow had not. Marlow’scharacter changes after going for the mission in Congo. The tone usedin the film is a sad one, but Conrad utilizes a somber and depressingtone.


Conrad,Joseph.&nbspHeartof Darkness., 2016. Internet resource.

Now,Apocalypse. &quotFrancis Ford Coppola.&quot&nbspUnitedArtists&nbsp146(1979).