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Essay about Comparing Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now

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Similarities in Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now


Sometimes, a work is so great that artists from other forms of expression are compelled to interpret that work in their own medium. Francis Ford Coppola took James Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness and updated it to the time of the Vietnam War. James Conrad’s classic novella Heart of Darkness is a tale about a seaman who makes his way up the Congo river in search of a man and his ivory. In 1979, Francis Ford Coppola released Apocalypse Now, centered around an Army officer that has been ordered to assassinate an insane American officer. He, too, must travel upriver, but this time it is on the Mekong River in Vietnam. However different, both of these stories have many similarities throughout. Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now share many of the symbolic elements.

One of these elements is the battle between the good and the evil sides of man’s soul. As a general in Apocalypse Now said, "There is a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil, and the good does not always triumph" (Coppola). As he says "rational," his head turns to the dark side, and as he says "irrational," his head turns to the light side (Dittmar and Michaud 153). This subtle gesture could possibly suggest that the irrational way might be the easiest way. This struggle between light and dark or good and evil is at the heart of both of these works. The point is that the basic elements of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are essentially alike.

In both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, the characters were driven to their breaking points by the harsh realities of their environment. Marlow’s journey up the river in Heart ...


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...ss, 1990.

Hellman, John. American Myth and the Legacy of Vietnam. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

Philips, Gene D. Conrad and Cinema: The Art of Adaptation. Dallas: Peter Lang, 1995.

Outline

Thesis sentence: The basic elements of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are essentially alike.

I. The setting is similar in both works.

        A. The environment drives the characters to their limits in the movie and the book.

II. The plot is the same basic shape in both works.

        A. In both works, Marlow/Captain Willard are given a job to do.

        B. Similar events occur in the movie and the book.

III. The characterization is similar in both works.

        A. Kurtz/Colonel Kurtz and Marlow/Captain Willard are two halves of the same person.

        B.   Kurtz had gone insane in both the movie and the novel.


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