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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Analysis


The much-famed novel, Heart of Darkness is an epic masterpiece that was written by Joseph Conrad based on the concept of light versus darkness. Critically acclaimed Apocalypse Now (1979) was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film is a combination of vivid cinematography, visionary directing and smart storytelling (Venetia, Rainey, pp. 1-3). If we compare both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, The theme that both of them has in common is “Hypocrisy”. This theme is incorporated by both Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola in order to depict man’s unbelievable prospective for evil. Men always had a prospect of finding himself in the darkness by doing evil things to himself as well as the society. In this essay, the movie “Apocalypse Now” and the novel “Heart of Darkness” are compared to intensely demonstrate the voyage of man into their inner self and encounters of the man with their departure, irrationality, and uncertainties. This essay shows that “Apocalypse Now” retains the essence of Joseph Conrad’s Novel, despite the chronological and spatial differences. This essay discuss about the essence and themes of both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness in detail.


Apocalypse Now, which is fundamentally based on Joseph Conrad’s story Heart of Darkness, is directed by Francis Ford Coppola,.” Despite Conrad’s story is established in the Congo in the 1890. Critical analysis of both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now on a deeper level showed that it is all about man’s inevitability to chose between good and evil. Both Novel and film are all about taking a right decision at the right moment and choosing between good and evil. Heart of Darkness is fundamentally based on Conrad’s adventures in the Congo River as the captain of a steamboat. Heart of Darkness, shows the hypocrisy and greedy nature of men on all levels. The Novel shows that a person is willing to do anything wrong as long as his greed is fulfilled. The fundamental theme about which this story orbits around is civilization as opposed to wilderness.

The symbolic theme that signifies this story is the disagreement of light as opposed to darkness. The concept of “light” is generally connected with Western philosophy, evolution, information, and the mindful. On the other hand, The “darkness,” is linked with Third World cultures, for example Africa, which is not as educated or civilized when compared with western countries. Numerous themes in this novel of Conrad are grounded on this set of antagonisms. The story rotates around the antagonisms suggested in the title: light and darkness. Europeans associate the concept of “light” with their own society, as opposed to the “darkness” which the Europeans associate it with African society. Thus, in the novel, European culture is contrasted with African culture. Marlow’s journey down the Congo River, and his epic run into with Kurtz, states the apprehension of the white man who is drawn by his foray into the wilderness to go native, lose the symbols of civilization, and return to a more primitive state of mind. Another conclusion that can be drawn out is that Conrad’s story is that he is very critical of the racist colonial mentality of the Europeans in African countires, which are thoroughly driven by greediness to exploit African labor and resources

Conrad’s novel follows Marlow down the Congo river to Mr Kurtz. For both Willard and Marlow, the farther upriver they go, the farther they get away from civilization and the rules that govern men’s behavior. Marlow and Willard, having followed the same path, do not give in to the evil that lives in the hearts of all men – and that’s the point. Every one of us is capable of good and evil, and it’s the decisions we make that define us. Willard tells us all along that he doesn’t know what he will do once he meets Kurtz. He has to decide for himself, once he reaches Kurtz and evaluates the situation, what the right thing to do is. Ultimately he decides to kill Kurtz, but not because he is ordered to do so, but because he believes it’s the right thing to do.

Heart of Darkness explores the menace of Imperialism and how it transforms a society. Heart of Darkness deals with other aspects of life like fate, the difference between good and evil, human feelings and emotions, and various other subjects that could affect human lifestyle.. It can be reasoned that Heart of Darkness contributes to an harassment of nonwhites that is far more threatening and harder to remedy than the open abuses of Kurtz or the Company’s men.

Apocalypse Now is not just an ordinary movie that tells about the horrors of war, instead, film deals not only with the appearances and effects of war but also with other aspects of life like fate, the difference between good and evil, human feelings and emotions, and various other subjects that could affect human lifestyle. Apocalypse Now is not about any other war but about the catastrophic United States involvement in Vietnam. The United States was not able to choose correctly between good and evil and eventually they paid a huge price for it. The movie was grounded on the basis of revelations and stories from people participated in Vietnam war (Ebert, Roger, pp. 1-3). The movie is inducing the appearance and spirits of the much dreaded Vietnam War, dealing in impressions for which no clarifications are satisfactory or essential. This may sound like an overkill, but the most mesmerizing fragment of the film is when Willard is directed towards the river in the boat given to him by the Army to assassinate Colonel Kurtz. Colonel Kurtz’s techniques are considered by the upper command to be illogical and flawed (Cahir, Linda Costanzo, pp.1-3). This is intended to be really ironic since American methods are also considered illogical and flawed as well in Vietnam.Apocalypse Now wants to be something more than a just a war film, it wants to entice its viewers about the horrors of a war and how it changes a person, and effects countries on a much large scale (Ebert, Roger, pp. 1-3).

If we make a comparison or try to find an essence between Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Conrad’s Novel, “Heart of Darkness”, In spite of the spatial and chronological differences, they both have few similarities. The Essence of human nature and imperialism remain to be seen in both the movie and in the novel. The major characters of the movie have some striking similarities to their fictional colleagues. In Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, both Francis Ford and Joseph Conrad generate comparable declarations through their conceptions as both of them consolidate their views upon the major effects of environmental alterations that affect the overall condition of human beings. The Francis Ford’s film Apocalypse Now ambiguously echoes a comparable message given by novel of Conrad.

The parallels that can be conveyed when connecting themes in both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness are associated with human nature. The film and novel are embraced with frequent fundamental themes that simplify the understanding of the meaning of both works. The theme of hypocrisy is assimilated in both works for the purpose of depicting man’s astounding and ridiculous potential for evil. The Hypocrisy of Europeans is showed in a way that they generally say that their primary intentions in Africa are to trade with the inhabitants and submerge them with the light of sophistication. but their actions show that they take the ivory from the citizens by power and they treat them cold-bloodedly. If we compare both the movie and the novel we can determine that both Coppola’s Army and Conrad’s Company is a topsy-turvy group of men whose hypocrisy is interrogated by the dominant characters.


Generally, Apocalypse Now breathes up to its striking name. It has its flaws and limitations but it as a beautiful epiphany of natural beauty, horrors of war. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness novel also lives up to its reputation and shows the theme of hypocrisy engrossed in the human nature. Both Novel and the movie reveals not only the numerous faces of combat but also the illogicalities between tediousness and enthusiasm, fear and disappointment, cruelty and attractiveness. Men are always driven by forces that led them to do things in a hypocritical way. Both Novel and the film showed that men have an unbelievable prospect of evil and more often than not he finds himself in position to get manipulated into doing evil things.

Works Cited

Ebert, Roger. “Apocalypse Now Movie Review & Film Summary (1979) | Roger Ebert.” N. p., 1979. pp. 1-3

Cahir, Linda Costanzo. “Narratological Parallels In Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness” And Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” – Proquest.”  N. p. (1992) pp. 1-3

Venetia, Rainey. “Apocalypse Now: The Original 1979 Reviews.” The Week UK. (2011) pp. 1-3

Richard Roud “Apocalypse Now: Archive Review.” the Guardian. N. p. (2010) pp. 1-3



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