“We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.” – Marlow, speaking of his quest to find Kurtz in Heart of Darkness
“Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror…. [T]hese were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love ... but they had the strength ... to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling.” – Colonel Kurtz speaking to Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now
“There’s many a beast then in a populous city, / And many a civil monster.” – Iago, speaking to Othello in Othello
“If you only knew the power of the dark side.” – Darth Vader, speaking to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” – Yoda, speaking to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
"Everyone carries a shadow," wrote psychologist Carl Jung, "and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." Jungian psychology refers to this unknown dark side of the personality as “the shadow archetype,” and it manifests itself symbolically in literature and film in the form of actual characters who serve as dark shadows of the protagonists. Darth Vader, Lord Voldemort, and Gollum, for instance, all serve as literal antagonists, respectively, to Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins, but they also act as figurative shadows of the heroes themselves. They all represent the subconscious dark sides of the heroes’ personalities, and all three characters struggle to avoid giving in to this darker nature. Pay attention to a similar dichotomy between light and dark as we study Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness and William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello (and the film adaptations of these texts). The former text follows the protagonist on a literal quest into the heart of Africa to find an ivory trader named Kurtz, but the story is really a psychological journey into the dark side of human nature. The latter text presents the tragic downfall of the noble Othello at the hands of the conniving Iago, but the story is really a psychological exploration of what causes a civil man to become a murderous monster. While reading these stories, look for glimpses of yourself in these characters. Do you have a dark side, a shadow? Are you merely a monster masquerading as a man?
Anchor Texts: Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness; William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello
Supplementary Texts: Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of Heart of Darkness (Apocalypse Now); Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Othello; Various poetry/prose selections for AP essay analysis
Permission Slip: Apocalypse Now and Othello
As part of our current unit, we will be viewing scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now (based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness) and Kenneth Branagh’s 1995 film version of William Shakespeare’s Othello. Both films are rated R and thus require parent permission:
_____ My son/daughter ______________________________________ has permission to watch scenes from these films in class.
_____ My son/daughter ______________________________________ does not have permission to watch scenes from these films in class. (He/she will not be penalized in any way for not participating.)