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Comparing Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now

Comparing Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now

Heart of Darkness written by Joseph Conrad and “Apocalypse Now” a movie directed by Francis Coppola are two works that parallel one another but at the same time reflect their own era in time and their creator’s own personal feelings and prejudices. “Apocalypse Now” was released in 1979 after two years in the making, as Coppola’s modern interpretation to Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness (Harris). Conrad’s book is an excellent example of the advances writers and philosophers made in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This advance deals with civilized humanity’s ability to be prepared for and know the unknown. (Johnson) Comparatively, Copolla’s movie does the same in the late 1970’s. “Apocalypse Now” dares to breach the edges of soldier sanity in a stressful and protested Vietnam War.

One of the many similarities between Heart of Darkness and “Apocalypse Now” is race. Joseph Conrad and Francis Coppola both use white men as the characters that have dominance (Bradley). The white men not only dominate their respective crews, but also the peoples native to the country the white men are visiting. The character Conrad uses, Marlow, and Coppola uses his character, Willard, both look at the natives as though white men are the civilized culture and the native people are the savage culture (Franklin). Both works also reflect the theory that “civilized” white men that go into an uncivilized land become savage and do not return to white civilization. An example of this that is in the book is MarlowÕs appointment with the doctor. The doctor measures Marlow’s skull to compare its size at the present time to the size of his skull upon his return from the Congo. The thought is that a civilized manÕs skull is a different size than a savage’s skull. When Marlow asks the doctor how what the results of this test have been in the past, the doctor comments that there are none because no civilized person has ever returned from the Congo. An example of this in the movie is when Willard faces his own personality of whether or not to complete his soldierly mission of killing Kurtz or to abort it. If he completes the mission he is still civil, if he does not, the Vietnam jungle has conquered him. The first soldier that is sent to kill Kurtz did not kill Kurtz, but in fact became one of his followers.

Courtly Love Conventions in Troilus and Creseyde

Courtly Love Conventions in Troilus and Creseyde

From the beginning the reader knows that “Troilus and Criseyde” is both a romance and a tragedy, for if the name of the poem and the setting of doomed Troy are not enough of a clue, Chaucer’s narrator tells us so explicitly. This is a tale of:

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,

In lovying, how his aventures fellen

Fro wo to wele, and after out of joie2

This waxing and waning of Troilus’ and Criseyde’s happiness in love allows Chaucer to explore the different manifestations of love in his contemporary society, and what the costs of loving might be. In particular, Criseyde’s fear of love, and betrayal of Troilus’ love, raises the question: who is allowed to choose to love?

Yet despite the readers’ foreknowledge of a tragic ending, Chaucer’s skill is in exploring this theme, while making the outcome of the story seem anything but fixed. He “directs our responses and controls the narrative situation,”3 so that we are in constant anticipation. One scene in particular strikes me as a powerful example of Chaucer’s ability to evoke this feeling of uncertainty and infinite possibility suddenly coalescing into the next inevitable movement of the plot.

In a relatively short passage in Book II (lines 876-931) Criseyde makes the symbolic decision to love, despite her concerns about the power games involved with ‘true’ or courtly love. She “wex somwhat able to converte”4 her fears into love of Troilus.

This scene is made up of what appears to be a simple convergence of four important elements: Antigone’s song of true love, and her certain and convincing belief in true love (as opposed to mere passion – “hoot”…

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…Cambridge University Press, 1986) pp. 213-226. This from p. 213.

4. Benson, Book II, 903, p.501.

5. Benson, Book II, 892, p.501.

6. David Aers, “Criseyde: Woman in Medieval Society,” The Chaucer Review 13 (3) (1979), 177-200. This from p. 180.

7. Benson, Book II, 872, p. 501.

8. Benson, Book II, 874-875, p. 501.

9. Benson, Book II, 887, p.501.

10. Benson, Book II, 891, p. 501.

11. Benson, Book II, 894, p. 501.

12. Benson, Book II, 922, p. 502.

13. Aers, p. 186.

14. Benson, Book II, 922, p.502.

15. Benson, Book II, 930, p. 502.

16. Eugene Vance, “Mervelous Signals: Poetics, Sign Theory, and Politics in Chaucer’s Troilus,” New Literary History 10 (1979), 293-337. This from p. 328.

17. Aers, p. 180.

18. Aers, p. 181.

19. Benson, Book II, 903, p. 501.

20. Benson, Book II, 890-891, p.501.

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