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February 3, 2014

Comparison of Heart of Darkness with Apocalypse

Heart of darkness is a book written by joseph Conrad as a frame narrative about the life of Charles Marlow who worked as a transporter in the Congo River, which is situated in Central Africa while Apocalypse is a film produced and directed by Francis Ford. The film has notable characters like Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, and Marlon Brando. The main character in this movie is Captain Benjamin Willard who acts as a special operations officer whose main mandate is to kill Cornel Walker Kurtz. These two pieces of art exhibits lots of similarities since they tend to raise similar questions to the audience and hence they tend to portray same themes when looked at from a similar perspective.
These two works captures the theme of the hypocrisy of western imperialism. The heart of darkness covers issues concerning imperialism in weird and complicated ways. Marlow, one of the main characters travels to the Central Station from the Outer Stationed and finally up the river towards the Inner Station. As he does all these types of travelling and movements, he encounters all forms of cruelty, torture, and near slavery. The book offers an absolutely harsh view of the colonial enterprise. It portrays colonialists as individuals who are out to cause chaos and disrupt the flow of events concerning the people living in the respective colonies (Bloom 66). The men who work for the Company set up by the colonialists regards what they do as ‘trade’ which involves unfair treatment of the black people under pretense of civilization by the colonial masters. Kurtz himself is bold enough to describe his activities in the Congo region as taking ivory by force rather than engaging in trade as he had initially been doing. He treats the natives with a lot of extermination and suppression. He also reveals that he rules over these people by use of violence and suppression (Bloom 87). This self-confession helps to reveal how European are extending their evil practices in Africa under pretense of trade related activities. Marlow looks at Africans as a mere backdrop, in fact a screen against which he can portray out his existential and philosophical struggles.
The theme of western imperialism is also captured in the Apocalypse in the sense that it illuminates the ironies that surrounds the Vietnam War and western imperialism. The film reveals the pains that resulted from the Vietnam War, which is spearheaded by the US government under the pretense of facilitating peace and democracy in the war stricken and chaotic Vietnam. The US army uses crude mechanisms to cause death, misery, and suffering to the innocent people of Vietnam. The bridge, sampan, and air strike scenes in the movie reveal how killings and maiming of civilians is done in Vietnam under the US army (Bloom 125). American troops are helping to kill the civilians instead of protecting them and finding peaceful and alternative mechanisms of ensuring that there is peace in that region. US armies are strangers in Vietnam and yet they act as if they own that place by continuing to stake the territory where they fire and kill without provocation.
Another theme that is shared by both works is the theme of madness as a result of imperialism and war. Conrad in his book links madness to imperialism. He argues that Africa as a continent is partly responsible for the scenes of mental disintegration as well as physical madness. He portrays madness as a phenomenon that has two distinct functions. The first one is that it is used to facilitate the idea of engaging the reader’s sympathies (Bloom 62). Marlow is told from the very beginning that he has mental disparity, however, as the readers continue getting deeper into the book; it is eventually revealed that Marlow’s madness is actually relative since it becomes apparent that in the context of the idea of insanity becomes difficult to either define or comprehend (Bloom 37). This makes the readers and Marlow to start sympathising with Kurtz and view the Company with a lot of suspicion.
The idea of madness in this book also tends to establish the necessity of social fictions that are part of the societal setting. Explanatory justifications and social mores are shown throughout the book to be utterly wrong and even leading to evil since they are nevertheless essential for both individual security and group harmony. Madness in this book is associated with the idea of an individual being disintegrated from his/her own social context and be allowed to become the sole or main arbitrator of owns actions. The theme of madness is also brought up in the Apocalypse now. The film is portrayed as a metaphor that is concentrating on a journey into the self and reveals how the self, as a result of war, darkens beyond recognition (Keller 87). There is a scene where Willard, one of the main characters in this war filled movie moves upriver with his colleagues. He and the PBR crew becomes excessively agitated and separated from the reality surrounding their lives and activities in Vietnam.
They are in Vietnam on a mission of ensuring that there is sanity, order, peace, and democracy by fighting any form of resistance from the oppressors of civilians. The movie shows how Willard and his PBR crew suffers from a mental breakdown while on a unique mission, which they were assigned to by the leadership of the US army (Keller 74). The movie has a chef who in one, scene happens to encounter a tiger thus making him never to be the same again from the mental perspective. His temper becomes shorter after this experience, and he resorts to drugs afterwards. Lance, one of the characters in this film manages to return to drugs after taking part in the Vietnam War. He goes ahead to camouflage his face thus signalling a changed self. There is an incident where clean, a close associate of the Chef is killed (Keller 45). This incident makes the Chef to breakdown emotionally thus becoming a changed man. The film highlights how the experiences in Vietnam manages to change the perceptions and character traits of individuals who took part in the Vietnam War.
The prospect of going to war in Vietnam at first sounded like an exciting voyage from the American troops who were obsessed with the idea of representing their country in its quest of calming the situation in Vietnam with a view of restoration of peace and democracy in that war torn country. Characters happens to harden themselves thus allowing the movies to reflect their impending madness by covering the journey in fog ad darkness to portray the hallucinatory atmosphere in Vietnam (Keller 14).
Both pieces of art covers the themes of Hypocrisy and madness that results from the ideas of colonisation and war. The book and the movie covers activities on how the Americans and Europeans have caused chaos, suffering, killings and untold misery to the innocent people of Congo and Vietnam respectively. The Europeans enters Congo under the pretense of trade only to end frustrating the natives. Their activities in Congo causes some sort of mental problems to the Europeans themselves. The same scenario is witnessed in Vietnam where the America troops ends up killing and injuring the innocent Vietnam civilians by pretending to be helping them to restore peace and democracy. The soldiers themselves suffers mental breakdowns that leads some of them to drugs as a mechanism of finding solace.

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