Heart of Darkness

The Moral Ambiguity of Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness” and “Apocalypse Now” College

Marlon Brando gets no more than eighteen minutes of screen time in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, but his performance goes down as one of the most legendary in cinematic history. His portrayal of the Colonel Kurtz painted a dark picture of a tribal leader gone mad. Similarly, Kurtz in the book “Heart of Darkness” has a mysterious aura around him, one that suggests ambition as well as malice. However, the most interesting thing about Kurtz is that most of the information we know about him is second-hand, and thus, for most of the book, his character is revealed by what others say about him. Looking at Kurtz’s parallel in the movie, there are some small but crucial differences that end up changing the viewer’s opinion of Marlow.

The very first mention of Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness” occurs when Marlow runs into the Company’s very well dressed chief accountant:

One day he remarked, without lifting his head, ‘In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.’ On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down his pen, ‘He is a very remarkable person.’ Further questions elicited from him that Mr. Kurtz was at present in charge of...

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