In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, the author, seems to emphasize things that are dark or are white in such a way that it stands out throughout the novel. The repetition of dark or white objects suggests to the reader that there is a significant meaning behind it. It is up to each individual reader to interpret it in their own way. I will give my interpretation of what Joseph Conrad may mean with the emphasis on dark and white objects.
The color white is usually positively associated with purity, goodness, and innocence, but in this novel it is not always the case. Some of the white objects found in the novel are: the ivory that is dug from underneath the ground, the fog that Marlow encounters on his journey, the main characters of the novel are white men, and there are several scenes where the sunlight plays a role. The removal of the white ivory might symbolize the culture and traditions being taken away from the African tribes by the white people. The fog is white yet it causes diffulty for Marlow and his crew to see during the journey. This fog can be interpreted as symbolizing the expeditioners going to Africa and the African natives not able to see or comprehend the true intentions of those expeditioners which are to extract all the ivory they can and have the natives do the work for them. Throughout the novel, most if not all the significant characters are white, which when considering that the time period in which this story is taking place is around the 1890's, it is logical to assume that the reason for this is that during those times the white race was thought to be superior and all other races were inferior and portrayed negatively. An occasion of when the sunlight plays a role is in the scene where Marlow is visting Mr. Kurtz's widow. At the beginning there is sunlight coming in throughout the house and as the somber discussion about Mr. Kurtz is brought up, there is less sunlight and more darkness. This may symbolize Mr.Kurtz's life, appearing to have a bright and successful future in the beginning and then his unexpected downfall before his death.
Darkness is usually negatively associated with evil, uncertainty, and emptiness. Some of the things in the book mentioned to be dark are: the natives, the forest, and the soul/heart of Mr.Kurtz. Marlow refers to the natives as "black shadows of disease and starvation", "black bones", and creatures.(26-27) Reinstating the point of non-white races seen as inferior and negatively portrayed. When Marlow sees the natives and Mr.Kurtz for the first time he says that they(the natives and Mr.Kurtz),"...were poured into the clearing by the dark-faced and pensive forest."(100) I think that the forest being described as "dark-faced" represents the uncertainty and sense of mystery that Marlow feels is hidden or camouflaged behind those trees. In my opinion, the thing that is mostly talked about in relation to darkness is Mr.Kurtz's soul/heart. It is dark because it is full of greed and violence. This great man changed drastically from what he used to be and changed his lifestyle to that of the native. A man of his skill and wisdom fallen so low as to interact among the natives--the inferior group. His interaction with the natives and in a way turning into one can be thought of falling into darkness or being full of darkness.
The book Heart of Darkness is about Marlow's journey to Africa in search of the much talked about and admired Mr.Kurtz. Mr.Kurtz had strayed away from hid duties of extracting ivory for the company he worked for and hadn't been seen in a while. Marlow's job was to see how the operations in Africa were progressing and finding the whereabouts of Mr.Kurtz. During the trip, Marlow hears a lot about Mr.Kurtz and he starts to anxiously anticipate their meeting. Once they meet, Marlow knows that this isn't the man that he was spoken of because this man he sees is savage-like in that he wanders alone in the depths of the forest, interacts with savages, and crawls in the forest in the middle of the night. Mr.Kurtz had forgotten about his primary duties in Africa and lost his sense of direction and identity in Africa's environment. Marlow found the other side of Mr.Kurtz and swears not to let anyone else know about this Mr.Kurtz. Mr.Kurtz soon dies and Marlow returns to England to visit his widow. He tells her that he was a great man but doesn't mention anything about what he was like before his death. It would cause great pain to evryone if they knew the truth.
The movie Apocalypse Now is based on the book Heart of Darkness but the plot and setting of it is different. Martin Sheen plays Captain Benjamin L. Willard, who in the book would be the character of Marlow, and Marlon Brando plays the part of Colonel Kurtz. The movie takes place during the Vietnam War. Captain Willard is given the secret mission of finding and killing Colonel Kurtz. Colonel Kurtz was a much respected and honored soldier that started to act alone without the consent or approval of his superior officers or the government. Like the book, Kurtz lost his sense of direction and identity, but here while fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. Captain Willard and some other soldiers are sent by boat to look for Colonel Kurtz in the jungles of Vietnam. As in the book, during the journey the captain and his crew are attacked by savages and one of his men is killed by an arrow/spear. When they finally find Colonel Kurtz, he is the leader of a savage tribe. He has changed his lifestlye into that of living among savages. He seems to have their mentality of hatred and violence. One more of the captain's men is killed by orders of Kurtz himself. Captain Willard knows that he has to act fast before they are all killed, so when the opportunity comes when he and Kurtz are alone, he kills him. Unlike the book where Kurtz is thin and on the verge of death, in the movie he is big and powerful. In both the book and the movie Kurtz says "The horror! The horror!" before he dies. There was something that Kurtz unexpectedly experienced in both Africa and Vietnam that caused him to change drasticallly. What that was is a mystery. After everything is over, Captain Willard(Marlow) is not the same person also that he was when he first began the trip. From both the book amd the novel, I came out with the same idea that it was trying to tell us that everyone has a dark side that they may not know exist in them, but one day they will know.