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Comparing Marlow of Heart of Darkness and Willard of Apocalypse Now

Comparing Marlow of Heart of Darkness and Willard of Apocalypse Now

Whenever books are adapted for film, changes inevitably have to be made. The medium of film offers several advantages and disadvantages over the book: it is not as adept at exploring the inner workings of people – it cannot explore their minds so easily; however, the added visual and audio capabilities of film open whole new areas of the imagination which, in the hands of a competent writer-director, can more than compensate.

Heart of Darkness relies heavily on lengthy philosophical and expository passages, as well as some very unusual and complex imagery; “not the easiest material to rewrite as a screenplay” (Canby, 18). However, rewrite it Francis Ford Coppola did, altering the time and place of the novel from 19th century Congo to 20th century Vietnam. Coppola made an original film, with concepts and ideas taken from Heart of Darkness, rather than making a straight film version of the book. Consequently, there are many similarities and differences between the film and the book.

The character of Marlow is renamed Willard in Apocalypse Now. This is noteworthy; the character of Kurtz has the same name in both the text and the film, so why not Marlow? “This is probably because the character of Kurtz in the film is almost identical to that in the book, whereas Willard is very different from Marlow” (Benner, 34). Kurtz is the person who has disconnected himself from society; he is not tied to any particular era, so his character works just as effectively in the 20th century as in the 19th. However, Marlow is the ordinary person in Heart of Darkness – the one ordinary man in the entire book, more-or-less; he is what ties the book into the society of …

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…tif/Symbol/Metaphor (accessed 23 Jan. 2000).

Benner, Ralph Heart of Darkness: A film review by Ralph Benner created 1996 (accessed 26 Jan. 2000).

Canby, Vincent. “Apocalypse Now.” The New York Times Film Reviews. New York: The New York Times

Heart of Darkness – A Reform Piece or Racist Trash?

Heart of Darkness – Reform Piece or Racist Trash?

In 1890, Joseph Conrad spent four months as a steamship captain in the Congo. Like his character Marlow, Conrad became both physically ill and greatly disturbed as a result of his experiences. The Congo haunted Conrad, and despite the fact that he spent relatively little of his time there, he felt compelled to write about his experiences years later.1

Indeed, the Congo had a profound influence on Conrad. While there he met Roger Casement who was to become a life long friend and ally in the campaign against Leopold II. Conrad’s experience was much like Marlow’s. As a young man, Conrad would look at maps and desired to journey to the as yet unexplored Congo, much the same way Marlow did. He was the captain of a steamboat that traveled between Stanley Falls and Leopoldville. Like Marlow, he also became very ill as a result of his travels. While in the region he kept a daily diary that would aid him in future work. Conrad originally wrote a short story about his experiences in the Congo, but later decided that a slightly longer work would be necessary to deal with the topic.2 Out of this profound influence came a profound novella, Heart of Darkness, which was published in 1902 at the height of the Congo controversy.

Heart of Darkness painted a very dark picture of the Congo. It is no surprise that there is so much dark imagery in Heart of Darkness, Conrad adequately described the tone of the Congo. Kurtz can be seen as a white man who set out for the Congo, like so many others, in an effort to “civilize” the inhabitants of the region. In the end though, it’s Kurtz who is the most savage. Kurtz could be a representative of any of the members of the For…

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…on different races have improved. That there even is a debate would indicate that people today are more aware of issues of racism than they were in 1902.

Works Cited

(1), (2), (6) Forbath, Peter. The River Congo. Harper

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