Heart of Darkness vs. Apocalypse Now Essay

Heart Of Darkness Vs Apocalypse Now Essay

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In the article, “Narratological Parallels in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now” Linda Costanzo Cahir compares and contrasts both the novella and the film. Both writers had the same theme and meaning in mind, but their structure and technique was what made the stories different. In both the novel and the film, we see the central character (Marlow or Willard) as a man drastically altered by a past experience. Each story begins with the main character explaining how he was appointed to take the journey up the river. Both Marlow and Willard made three unscheduled stops with the crew. The third stop being the “soul-altering confrontation with the mysterious Kurtz” (Cahir 1). Although the plot is the same, the stories are different. Not only in the way they are told, but also in the way the main character endures the excursion. Linda Costanzo Cahir speaks about the “recording eye.” The narrator serves as the “recording eye” in Heart of Darkness. Being invisible only between the teller and listener, the narrator sees what is going on and reports back to the reader. We see what the narrator sees just as we see what a camera sees. The narrator controls what we hear and see at all times. Apocalypse Now is a more contemporary version of Heart of Darkness, retold through a camera. “Coppola’s camera retells Benjamin Willard’s tale” (2). We see everything through the eye of the camera. Another similarity between the two stories is the audience. Either by book or my film, this story is being told to someone. In Heart of Darkness, the narrator is telling the story to the other people on the boat, while in Apocalypse Now, Willard is telling the story to the audience. “Like Chaucer’s Pilgrims, Conrad’s character (in this frame portion if the story) are identified by their professions only ;and they, too, passed the time in storytelling” (3). I really like the way Cahir compared Conrad’s characters to Chaucer’s characters. The Lawyer -the best of old fellows -had, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushion on deck, and was lying on the only rug. The Accountant had brought out already a box of dominoes, and was toying architecturally with the bones… The Director, satisfied the anchor had good hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. (Conrad 1) In Heart of Darkness a story is told to the passengers on the boat: “the Sailor’s Story, or Marlow’s Tale” (Cahir 4). I believe Conrad made the other characters known by their occupation to show the difference between the characters and Marlow. One could view the audience watching Apocalypse Now the same way. “Willard is not like the others, the Lawyers, the Directors, the Accountants seated in front of him listening to his tale in the movie theater” (5). We are listening to this story told by Willard, just as Conrad’s characters are listening to the narrator tell the story. Although the two stories show Marlow and Willard’s alteration through the journey to meet Kurtz, there is no real moral. I believe both men learned the lesson of existence in different ways. But the story itself was for entertainment, not to bequeath a moral. Linda Costanzo Cahir believes the separate tales of Benjamin Willard and Charles Marlow follow similar narrative patterns and arrive at similar truths. The stories are similar in many different ways, but the stories are totally different in many ways also. “Coppola understood the technique and theme, structure and meaning are inseparable entities. To tell a story differently is to tell a different story” (7). Cahir states, “Man’s fascination with the abomination, his initiation in to the heart of darkness is the same whether the descent is made by a Roman journeying up the Thames, an Englishman up the Congo, or an American up the Nung” (4). Although the stories, Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now’s details are different, the audience gets the same thing out of it. The story is still presented the same and the two men (Marlow and Willard) “undergo the same realization. Each confronts moral terror in the form of human conduct pushed beyond decent limits” (6). Both men are extremely disturbed and altered by this encounter. I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I agree with many of the points Linda Costanzo Cahir puts forth. Both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now follow a similar plot, but the stories are truly different. Both stories show several similarities such as the plot, the “recording eye,” and the audience. Both writers had the same theme and meaning in mind, but their structure and technique was what made the stories different.

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