Heart of Darkness, a novel by Joseph Conrad, and Apocalypse Now, a movie by Francis Ford Coppola are two works that parallel one another, but at the same time reflect their own era in time and their creator's own personal feelings and prejudices. It can be compared and contrasted in many ways. By focusing on their endings and on the character of Kurtz, contrasting the meanings of the horror in each media emerges. In the novel, the horror reflects Kurtz's tragedy of transforming into a ruthless animal, whereas in the film, the horror has more of a definite meaning, reflecting the war and all the barbaric fighting that is going on.
Conrad's Heart of Darkness deals with the account of Marlow, a narrator of a journey up the Congo River into the heart of Africa, into the jungle, his ultimate destination. Marlow is commissioned as an ivory agent and is sent to ivory stations along the river. Marlow is told that when he arrives at the inner station, he is to bring back information about Kurtz. As Marlow proceeds away to the inner station, he hears rumors of Kurtz's unusual behavior of killing the Africans. This behavior fascinates him, especially when he sees it first hand. At his dying moment, Kurtz utters "The Horror! The Horror! " which for the novel is words reflecting the tragedy of Kurtz, and his transformation into an animal.
One of the many similarities between Heart of Darkness and "Apocalypse Now " is race. Conrad and Coppola both use white men as the characters that have dominance. The white men not only dominate their respective crews, but also the people native to the country the white men are visiting. The characters Conrad and Coppola use, Marlow and Willard, both look at the natives as though white men are the civilized culture and the native people are the savage culture. They both also reflect the theory that "civilized " white men that go into an uncivilized land become savage and do not return the white civilization.