Parallels in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now
In the interpretation and comparison of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now there begins to unfold a list of similarities that can be linked to Arturian legend, particularly the quest of the grail. Marlow, or Willard can be viewed as the knight who has been sent on a mythic quest, the specific task being the recovery or assassination of Kurtz, the mythic god-man linked to the Fisher King in Arthurian romance. Conrad specifically modeled his novel on these legends, while Coppola expanded on the concept, using Conrad as a stepping off point and drawing from J.G. Frazer's The Golden Bough and J. Weston's From Ritual to Romance. I will examine the questers purpose for traveling into the heart of darkness, a void in the midst of a burgeoning jungle that has become a fecund waste land. View the quester as he comes in contact with a mysterious god-man or divine king whose own demise has contributed to the demise of the surrounding atmosphere, and how Marlow, and in turn Willard, deal with this figure, known as Kurtz. Finally I will discuss why Apocalypse Now fails as a recreation of Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
The Task of the Hero
In Arthurian legend a certain task is placed, or rather imposed upon the grail hero, whether that hero be Gawain, Perceval, or Galahad. He sets out on a journey with no clear idea of the task before him, except that he, at the bidding of King Arthur, must find the grail, and that he is taking the place of a mysterious knight that set out before him but was killed. The quest of the grail eventually gives way, as the story unfolds, to the knights healing of the Fisher King (the watcher of the grail), who has fallen gravely ill and whose sickness is the direct cause of the wasting of the land. Jessie Weston groups the task as following:
"(a) There is a general consensus of evidence to the effect that the main object of the Quest is the restoration to health and vigor of a King suffering from infirmity caused by wounds sickness or old age;
(b) and whose infirmity, for some mysterious and unexplained reason, reacts disastrously upon his kingdom, either depriving it of vegetation, or exposing it to the ravages of war...The misfortune and wasting of the land the result of war" (p. 20 From Ritual to Romance).
The quest is two-fold being, one, the aim of benefitting the king and two, the land. Greater influence is put on the restoration of the King, and the "restoration of the land not only falls into the background, but the operating cause of its desolation is changed, and finally it disappears from the story altogether" (p.14 From Ritual to Romance).
In Conrad's Heart of Darkness Marlow accepts the task of traveling up the large coiling Congo river into the dark center. His job is the transport of ivory from the Inner Station, his destined point, back to the Outer Station. The ivory can be linked to the grail, it being the only reason...