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Comparing And Contrasting Marlow/Willard And Kurtz

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Comparing and Contrasting Marlow/Willard and Kurtz

Inherent inside every human soul is a savage evil side that remains repressed by society. History is loaded with examples of atrocities that have occurred when one culture comes into contact with another. Whenever fundamentally different cultures meet, there is often a fear of contamination and loss of self that leads one to discover more about one's true self, often causing perceived madness. Heart of Darkness, a novel written by Joseph Conrad in 1899, and Apocalypse Now, a movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola, are two works that parallel one another, but at the same time, both reflect their own era in time and their creator's own personal feelings and prejudices.

In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Marlow is the protagonist of the novel. He gets a job with an ivory trading company with the help from his aunt. When he reaches the outer station, he meets the chief accountant, who is the first to use the name of the mysterious Mr. Kurtz. The chief accountant speaks of him in reverent tones and alluding to a conspiracy within the Company, the particulars of which Marlow never deciphers. Again, the name "Kurtz" provides a surface that conceals a hidden and potentially threatening situation.

Marlow is commissioned as an ivory agent and he is sent to ivory stations along the river. During Marlow's mission to find Kurtz in the Congo, he is also trying find himself. He, like Kurtz, had good intentions upon entering the Congo. Conrad tries to show the reader that Marlow is what Kurtz had been, and Kurtz is what Marlow would become. Along the trip into the wilderness, Marlow discovers his true self through contact with savage natives. As Marlow ventures further up the river, he feels like he is traveling back through time, where he sees the unsettled wilderness and can feel the darkness of its solitude. Marlow comes across simpler cannibalistic cultures along the banks of the river. The deeper into the jungle he goes, the more regressive the inhabitants become.

Kurtz in the novel had lived in Africa and was separated from his own culture for quite some time. He had once been considered an honorable man, but the jungle changed him greatly. Secluded from the rest of his own society, he discovers his evil side and becomes corrupted by his power and solitude. Marlow realizes that only very near the time of death does a person grasp the big picture. Kurtz's last "supreme moment of completely knowledge" showed him how horrible the human soul can be. Marlow can only speculate as to what Kurtz saw that caused him to exclaim "The horror! The horror!" Kurtz knew everything and discovered how horrible the duplicity of man can be. Marlow also learned through Kurtz's death, and he now knows that inside every human is this horrible, evil side.

Apocalypse Now, released in 1979, was a modern interpretation of Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness. The main character in Apocalypse Now is named Willard, played by Martin Sheen. He is a Marlow who is on a mission into Cambodia during the Vietnam War to find and kill an insane Kurtz. Coppola's Kurtz was an officer and a sane, successful, brilliant leader. Like Conrad's Kurtz, Coppola shows the viewer a man who was once very well respected, but was corrupted by the horror of war and the cultures he met. Willard faces his own personality of whether or not



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