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Apocalypse Now Appropriation of Heart of Darkness

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English Extension 1 Assessment Task 3 Apocalypse Now Appropriation of Heart of Darkness 38942 Introduction Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, published in 1902 is a story about a steamer journey up the Congo River and also into the darkest reaches of the human psyche. This novella has been appropriated to the "ground-breaking masterpiece"1 'Apocalypse Now' directed by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1979 in which a soldier must journey into the war-stricken Vietnam to execute a soldier gone insane. These two texts, although belonging to different genres, carry the common themes of darkness and imperialism. This report shall show how the differing contexts of these texts have influenced the themes, and also how the authors have used relevant techniques to show this. Context Heart of Darkness Heart of Darkness was set in a period during the colonial era when many European countries were laying claim to sections of Africa. An area known as the Belgium Congo was drawing serious international scrutiny over the outrageous treatment of many natives. King Leopold II of Belgium was a merciless ruler, not caring about the welfare of the natives. Leopold drained the Congo of any resource of value. In particular, natural rubber had become a valuable commodity. Leopold enslaved the natives, using murder and mutilation as punishment for those villagers who did not supply their quota of rubber. Heads and hands were cut off and women held hostage were brutalised and raped. ...read more.


Yet, it is obvious that the Europeans do not care for the welfare of the black people, rather caring for their own gain as can be seen in Marlow's statement describing the immaculate accountant "but in the great demoralisation of the land he kept up his appearance."4 It is plain to the reader here that amid the undermining of the civilisation of the natives, the Europeans are able to live in style. Ivory becomes an important metaphor in the novel. It becomes the source of much envy and many atrocities are executed to gain this unique material. Just like King Leopold's 'rubber-terror' Conrad points out the how the natives are exploited. This is seen through the juxtaposition of the Company with Mr Kurtz. The Company's atrocities are clear, as is the obsession with ivory "You would think they were praying to it."5 Yet they seem to claim that their atrocities are actually for "science" and "progress". This is clearly juxtaposed with Mr Kurtz, who also commits atrocities in order to gain ivory, but unlike the company, he openly acknowledges the atrocities he has performed and has awareness. This is emphasised by the words: "The horror! The horror!"6 Kurtz has realised sees the horror of imperialism and is condemning it. This juxtaposition heightens the awareness of the evil of imperialism. Thus we reach the next major theme that of the evil in man that plays a major role in the imperialism of Africa. ...read more.


ivory) but greed for victory. Yet, like the novel, they do not like to be seen as being the darkness. They hide behind morals such as 'democracy', and thus the true darkness of American imperialism is seen through the juxtaposition of Colonel Kurtz, who has achieved victory by openly assassinating Vietnamese double agents. The US Army said "his ideas, methods, became unsound", yet the irony is that they have sent Willard to assassinate Kurtz. This view of eliminating Colonel Kurtz is parallel to that of the Company wanting to eliminate Mr Kurtz in the novel. The atrocities of the Vietnam War are clearly defined and the reasons for imperialism are fuelled by the darkness of greed. The fact that the Americans are the source of the darkness is highlighted differently in the film as it is "not framed with the civilised company of men"10 like Heart of Darkness but "it is framed by the flames of napalm"11. Thus the horrific visual techniques Coppola uses in showing the exploding napalm becomes in themselves moral statements. Coppola is emphasising the inevitability of the darkness and horror that Conrad believed was escapable, to highlighted by the lyrics of the film's closing credits - 'This is the end, my friend'. Conclusion 'Apocalypse Now' and Heart of Darkness are texts that address the frightening themes of imperialism and darkness in man. The authors have gone to great lengths in depicting this horror through relevant techniques, and despite the obvious differences in context, these themes are still very similar. ...read more.

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