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Heart of Darkness & Apocalypse Now

The horror and darkness in Conrad’s novella is supplied by the jungle of the Congo, while in Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now it is supplied via the Vietnam War and Cambodia. Nonetheless, the horror discovered by Kurtz a former trader in the novella and a former colonel in the film, is found within the human breast. In the film, Colonel Kurtz explains the horror to Captain Willard the way the powerful white trade Kurtz explains the horror to Marlow in the novella. While Colonel Kurtz’ explanation relates to atrocities viewed during the Vietnam War, both the Kurtz in the novella and the Kurtz in the film explain that the horror is not the jungle or the war but the human potential for evil. Colonel Kurtz explains this to Captain Willard after talking about how natives lopped off the arms of every child inoculated against polio by his Special Forces: “Then I realized they were stronger than we. They have the strength, the strength to do that. If I had 10 divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instinct to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment.”

This is the horror, according to Colonel Kurtz in the film, a man who exploits the natives to do his bidding, natives who very much like the ones depicted in the novella, consider Kurtz a god. However, the Kurtz in the novella becomes mad from his experiences during the war, an “assassin accused by other assassins.” We know at the outset in the film Kurtz is to be terminated. However, the novella Kurtz will die from disease, and this Kurtz is a trader who took advantage of the power of his location and the natives to reject his former civilization “I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time. It was a distinct glimpse: the dugout, four paddling savages, and the lone white man turning


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Heart of Darkness & Apocalypse Now. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 08:09, August 19, 2022, from