In some cases a journey could prove to be a pivotal event in life. Spiritual and physical journeys can lie completely apart, or they can entwine to produce a complete different dimension of experience. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now are both examples of journeys that interlace a physical concept to a spiritual one. Conrad’s writing style provides several literary techniques to explore concepts of journey, whereas Coppola uses various film techniques.
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness expresses the journey of a steamboat captain, Marlow, through the Congo. Coextending to this physical expedition is Marlow’s impending spiritual journey, and this consequential ‘journey into the soul’ eventuates due to the physical journey. To exemplify this, Conrad often interweaves the two concepts together, “you lost your way on that river… till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off… from everything you had known once… ” (pg33) Marlow’s physical expedition permeates itself into his mind and instigates a whole new spiritual journey.
The isolation and regression from ‘everything he had known once’ refers to Marlow’s diminution of influences from his European lifestyle and culture -forthcoming with the journey to discover and ascertain his true self, remote from all European influences. Marlow’s anxiety towards his journey is exemplified when Conrad appoints the technique of foreshadowing to indicate the nature of the journey; “could we handle that dumb thing, or would it handle us? ” (pg26) connotes that conceivably Marlow could succumb to the jungle’s personified ‘will’.
Conrad also uses personification and hyperboles to depict the physical journey, to pose the jungle as an ominous and foreboding place, “… the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest… there was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. ” (pg33) As Marlow continues on his journey we discover several links between Marlow and Kurtz (a man who has become a deity amongst natives). A major indication occurs when Marlow observes a painting in an agent’s room (central station). Kurtz had previously painted it, a year ago when he too was present at the station.
The picture is of a woman who is blindfolded, she is in darkness. However, she ironically persists to hold a lighted torch; she continues on her journey despite the fact that it illuminates nothing for her eyes. She travels further into something unknown. The correlation with Marlow’s journey is revealed in the analogy and metaphor, “we were wanderers on a prehistoric earth… on an earth that wore the aspect of unknown planet” (pg35). Marlow too is advancing into the unknown. When we recall it was in fact painted by Kurtz, it exhibits that Kurtz was on a comparable journey to Marlow.
The picture represents Kurtz’s interpretation of his journey, from the perspective he had a year ago – before he turned into a dictatorial persona. He was travelling into an unknown jungle, almost representative of his own journey to insanity. Thus we realise Kurtz was just like Marlow had been (he too had been at the same station once), and Kurtz is the man Marlow could become. Kurtz was the best agent the company had to offer, and yet he has followed on this journey through the Congo and transfigured to an apparently maddened man.
Marlow enters the Inner station and we see that although he is able to comprehend Kurtz, he does not follow Kurtz’s example. Rather, Marlow attempts to ameliorate Kurtz, he “tried to break the spell… of the wilderness- that seemed to draw him [Kurtz] to its pitiless breast… by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. ” (pg66) The personification of the wilderness (it ‘drawing him to its pitiless breast’) facilitates the aforementioned affiliation between the physical journey and a mental journey ensuing.