Theme of Hypocrisy in Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness, and Coppola’s, Apocalypse Now


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Both Conrad’s, “Heart of Darkness”, and Coppola’s, “Apocalypse Now”, profoundly illustrate the journey of man into their inner self and man’s encounters with their insanity, fears and demise. The novella and film are comprised of numerous pivotal themes that facilitate the understanding of the deeper meaning of both works. Fundamentally, theme is an extensive message or idea expressed by an author and is a crucial element of literature since it sheds light on universal concepts. The most striking parallels that can be formulated when comparing themes in both the novella and the film are associated with human nature. Specifically, Conrad and Coppola incorporate theme of hypocrisy in order to portray man’s incredible potential for evil.

Firstly, the theme of hypocrisy is integrated in both works for the purpose of portraying man’s staggering and absurd potential for evil. In the novel, Heart of Darkness, the Europeans state that their objectives in Africa are to trade with the natives and immerse them with the light of civilization. However, their actions fail to reflect their stated motives since the Europeans take the ivory from the natives by force and they treat them inhumanely. Not to mention that the Europeans constantly refer to natives as objects such as machinery as well as suppress and eradicate them at any opportunity. Ultimately, the Europeans utilize their false words as a civilized veneer that masks their capability of being evil and savage. For instance, in Africa, Marlow states that he has familiarized himself “…with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.” (pg. 81). Symbolically, the colonists are described as the devil mentioned above because they treat the natives with brutality even though their stated intentions are pure. Also, the colonists are foolish and tactless for they are unaware that their actions expose the evilness behind their actions. Similarly, in Coppola’s work, the United Sates affirms that they fight in the name of freedom and democracy, yet they commit senseless and violent killings. In reality, their ulterior motives were to promote capitalism and become a dominant military world power. Furthermore, the U.S. focuses on their attention on murdering their own operative instead of attempting to finish the war, which is of a higher priority when lives are at stake. Additionally, the U.S. troops are strangers in Vietnam, but they act as if posses the foreign land since they seize territory and commit murder without being incited.

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"Theme of Hypocrisy in Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness, and Coppola’s, Apocalypse Now." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Jul 2017
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For example, when Chef inspects a sampan on Philips order, a Vietnamese woman runs towards a basket and Clean opens fire, nearly killing all of the villagers. Clean is not reprimanded for shooting as a measure against anticipated attack and murdering an entire family because army procedure is to murder without provocation. Although the U.S. army fights in the name of democracy, they will commit senseless killings since they see the innocent Vietnamese people as the enemy. Therefore, hypocrisy is a theme utilized in both works that effectively exposes man’s incredible potential for evil.


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