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Heart Of Darkness

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The Novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is about an Ivory agent, Marlow, who is also the narrator of his journey up the Congo River into the heart of Africa. Marlow witnesses many new things during his journey to find Mr. Kurtz. In Apocalypse Now, the narrator is Captain Willard, who is also on a journey to find Kurtz. The Kurtz in the movie however is an American colonel who broke away from the American army and decided to hide away in Cambodia, upon seeing the reality of the Vietnam War. The poem "The Hollow Men" talks about how humans' "hollowness" affects their lives and often leads to the destruction of one's life. These three works all deal with similar issues, and are related to one another in many ways, and also share somewhat similar themes.

Marlow in the novella is on a mission to find Mr. Kurtz, who is a well-respected ivory agent in Europe, but is believed to be using "unsound methods" to find and trade ivory in Africa, and also his cruel treatment of the African laborers. Marlow becomes interested in knowing Mr. Kurtz, upon hearing such rumors. he becomes even more interested after seeing, "black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids- a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber." The heads are perhaps an important part of this novella, and they show how much Mr. Kurtz had changed. Another similar scene is in the movie, where Captain Willard sees all the heads of those who opposed colonel Kurtz. Both of these scenes show how both Kurtzes had changed and how their surroundings had transformed them into different people. Although he is not paralyzed similar to the "hollow men" in T.S. Elliot's poem, he was one of the "lost and violent souls." His lack of moral or spiritual strength to sustain him caused him to turn into a barbarian. Kurtz becomes aware of this when he is close to dying, and that is why he mentions, "The horror! The horror!"

One of the biggest and probably most important themes in this novella is the effects and outcome of imperialism in Africa. Kurtz is a perfect example of how the Europeans went into Africa to "civilize" the Africans but ended up failing in doing so. Mr. Kurtz, who was a European trader, moved to Africa to trade for ivory with the Africans. Mr. Kurtz, unlike all of the other company men, openly lets everyone know that he does not trade but rather take the ivory by force; he even describes what he does by using words such as "suppression" or "extermination." Greed was another major point in this situation. "Everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious laughter..." Kurtz believed that everything around him, such as the ivory, and the river all belonged to him. This greed eventually made him forget his identity and he ended up becoming part of the jungle and dying there as a result. Such actions done by Kurtz and his men are a small but important example of what was really happening in Africa by the Europeans during the colonial period. Kurtz's death represents the downfall failure of European imperialism in Africa.

The movie Apocalypse Now has a very similar thematic structure but a different issue. Colonel Kurtz in the movie could be an example of how the Americans pretty much lost the Vietnam War. Kurtz realized what was happening around him. "The horror" to him was perhaps



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