Is "Apocalypse Now Redux" based on "The Pilgrims Progress" ?

Term Paper, 2002

10 Pages, Grade: good


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2a. About The Pilgrim’s Progress
2b. About Apocalypse Now Redux

3a. Christian's Journey compared with Willard's Journey
3b. The House Beautiful Compared with the French Plantation
3c. Vanity Fair Compared with Kurtz's Compound

4. Conclusion

5. Works Cited

1. Introduction

When we read The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, I noticed that several parts of it reminded me of sequences in the movie Apocalypse Now Redux. The most remarkable aspect was that both stories are about a journey. Admittedly, many stories are about a journey, e.g. Lord of the Ring or Odysseus, but The Pilgrim's Progress and Apocalypse Now Redux show more drastically the changing of the behaviour of the main character. They travel a long way to see something very unique which will definitely change their life. The difference is, that Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress searches for the Celestial City and heavenly salvation, which can be compared to paradise, while Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now Redux travels into the jungle to find and terminate a crazy renegade, comparable with a journey to hell.

The most striking similarities are found between Kurtz Compound and Vanity Fair, also between the House Beautiful and the French Plantation. There are also some smaller similarities. In this seminar paper I want to cover the most striking similarities which show, that the idea of Apocalypse Now Redux is based on parts of The Pilgrim's Progress.

2a. About The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress is a religious allegory (Magill 530), which means that it has at least two different layers of meaning. The story was written by John Bunyan and first published in 1678. It is about the flight of a desperate man, named Christian, from the City of Destruction. Christian's reason for his journey is "to see him alive, that did hang dead on the Cross; and there I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day are in me an annoyance to me" (Bunyan 46). He wants to find salvation by reaching the Celestial City.

After leaving his home, Christian is instructed by a man called Evangelist who tells him what to do. He then encounters many difficulties, e.g. in the City of Vanity, were he is put into a cage and judged by the people. He also meets many people on his journey. Some of them, like the people in the House Beautiful, are friendly and help him to find his way. But most of the people he meets, try to lead him off his way or even fight him, e.g. Mistrust or Apollyon. In the end Christian finally reaches the Celestial City and his salvation in heaven.

2b. About Apocalypse Now Redux

"Apocalypse Now is a version of Conrad's Heart of Darkness transposed to a hallucinated, horrific landscape of [...] Vietnam, whose first two-thirds may be one of the greatest war / antiwar films ever made, but whose conclusion bogs down in a morass of pomposity and metaphysics" (Cook 17-18).

The story of the movie begins with a Special Forces captain named Benjamin Willard, who waits in Saigon for a new mission. His new secret mission is to go up a river in Vietnam with a boat and a crew to assassinate a supposedly insane American colonel. He rules alone over his renegade army in Cambodia. On their journey Willard and his crew, like Christian, encounter many difficulties, but the greatest challenge is at the end of the journey, when they reach the area of Kurtz. They meet a lot of different people, especially soldiers and the deeper they enter the jungle, they leave civilization and enter "the horror", as Colonel Kurtz describes the war (F. Coppola 170-175).

3a. Christian's Journey compared with Willard's Journey

Christian flees from the City of Destruction because he wants to find salvation and "eternal life" (Bunyan 13). Willard wants to leave Saigon to go back into the jungle for his last mission (F. Coppola, 5). Both men are willing to change their life. Christian wants to end his misery and reach the Celestial City while Willard cannot wait to travel to the worst place in the world. They both are obsessed with the want to go on a journey (F. Coppola 7 and Bunyan 12).

Christian gets his first instruction by Evangelist, who tells him what to do (Bunyan 12). Like Willard he learns more and more about his mission on his way. The three Shining Ones give him the allowance to enter the holy city (36), comparable to Willard's instruction by the people at Com-Sec Intelligence in Nha Trang. They also give him the allowance, crew, ship and necessary information about the mission (F. Coppola 12-17). Both characters start alone, but they get to know many people, which come and go, and even die.

One of the differences between the two journeys is, that Willard has his own crew and travels by ship. Christian has no constant "crew", he just meets different people all the time. Hopeful is his only fellow traveller which he meets at Vanity Fair and who accompanies him until they reach the Celestial City.

Both trips show many similarities. The characters travel through a dangerous and always surprising land. They do not know what will happen next and they do not think about it. Both trips are full of incidents with different influence on the characters, because every time they learn something new. They meet strangers, e.g. Vain-Confidence and the Vietnamese boat-people, friends and enemies, and they have to fight for their lives. Christian's and Willard's journey leads them through many temptations and dangers finally to their desired destination. While Christian's journey is a trip to heaven and to his salvation, Willard goes into his individual hell by meeting the personified devil. "In Apocalypse Now [...] the journey leads to death and grandiose madness..." (Gianos 161). Christian also has to go through a dangerous "jungle" or "hell" during his journey, because not only Vanity Fair is ruled by the devil but before he reaches the Fair he has to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, were he sees "blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men, even of pilgrims that had gone this way formerly" (Bunyan 59). During the trip through the real jungle, Willard also sees dead bodies, skulls, and burning fires before he comes to the area of Kurtz (F. Coppola 135-140).


Excerpt out of 10 pages


Is "Apocalypse Now Redux" based on "The Pilgrims Progress" ?
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz  (Anglistics)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
427 KB
Apocalypse, Redux, Pilgrims, Progress
Quote paper
Wolfgang Bürkle (Author), 2002, Is "Apocalypse Now Redux" based on "The Pilgrims Progress" ?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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