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Adaptation of Heart of Darkness to the Movie, Apocalypse Now

Adaptation of Heart of Darkness to the Movie, Apocalypse Now

I chose to do this essay on the idea of story adaptation, and why changes are made to a story. I originally wanted to look at it just in terms of Apocalypse Now, and how the story of Heart of Darkness was updated to fit a different environment and time period, while still being true to many of the events, characters, ideas and themes presented in the story. I was curious about what changes were made, and what that indicated about how the director, and maybe society as a whole, felt about some concept that maybe were no longer acceptable or satisfactory.

However, when I started looking also at the biographical information about Conrad, it became clear that the story itself is an adaptation of sorts. Even though I already knew that Conrad had taken a trip similar to one Marlow takes, I had not been aware of the ‘departures of adaptation’ that were made to the story. In 1890 Conrad was given a captain’s commission of a steamboat on the Congo, due to the influence of a female relative. He traveled down the coast and up the river, and hiked 200 miles overland to reach his boat, which was sunk. But from that point on the story is a departure. Conrad, rather than waiting and fixing the boat, enlisted on another steamboat and traveled up river, getting very sick along the way. On the way back down the river, the captain was sicker than he was, so he got to captain the boat then. When he finally reached the station where the boat he had a commission for was supposed to be waiting, he found that his job had been given to someone else, so he returned to England.

So why did he take what starts out looking like a fictionalized autobiographical account, and then half way through the story start being totally fictional? The important changes made seems to be that he is in charge of the boat, and thus is in control of his own journey to the heart of darkness. The other is the significance of the Kurtz character. Prof Abel mentioned Kurtz was loosely based on someone named Klein, but presumably the significance of Kurtz is much more symbolic than biographical. Perhaps Conrad creates Kurtz to embody the issues that he thought about during his trip on the Congo, but which never actually personified themselves so concretely.

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

An Analysis of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
The early years of Joseph Conrad were rather unpleasant, but he managed to prevail and became a prolific writer of English fiction. Joseph Conrad was born Jozkef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski to a Polish family in a Ukranian province on December 3, 1857 (Heart of Darkness). When Joseph Conrad was just three years old, his father was arrested on suspicion of revolutionary affiliation. At eight years of age, Conrad witnessed his mother die of tuberculosis. Her death was followed by her husband’s when Conrad was just twelve. He became an orphan, who was taken in by his father’s uncle. Under the care of his uncle, he was introduced to a lifestyle contrasting the revolutionary ideals of his father. Conrad was indoctrinated with the conservative ideals. He was torn between the teachings of his father and his uncle, but from his uncle’s teaching he made a very important decision. He decided he did not like the Christian religion. He disliked any dogmatic belief that separated men and women because of race, nationality or religion. In 1874, Conrad became a seaman, fascinated by the sea. He sailed to many places, especially in Africa and Asia, first as a sailor and then as a captain (British Humanist Association). During his travels he witnessed division caused by religious belief and dogmatic attitudes in the many countries he visited (British Humanist Association). Conrad’s childhood, humanist outlook, and experiences at sea influenced all his great writings. His journey to Congo in 1890 influenced his most famous novel, Heart of Darkness. During his visit to Congo he witnessed the corruption that ran rampant under the rule of King Leopold II. He captured his experiences and created an ima…

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…own about imperialism. Without being completely blatant Conrad suggest the regime of King Leopold II in the Congo. Conrad’s characters reveal the hypocrisy and madness caused by imperialism that he witnessed in the Congo. They reveal the different types of rulers in imperial power and suggest that either ruler, suppressing the natives of the other country, is participating in evil. Conrad’s novel is not only a narrative for Marlow’s experience, but also for his experience with imperialism first-hand.

British Humanist Association, Joseph Conrad, tradition/20th-century-humanis/joseph-conrad/, April 15, 2014.
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad Biography,,
April 15, 2014.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1990. April 16, 2014.

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