Heart of the Apocalypse

Unit Plan

Warwick Downs
Adapted by Linda Scott
10 weeks

California Language Arts Content Standards
Standards Addressed in this Unit
Writing Applications
2.2Write responses to literature:
  1. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the significant ideas in works or passages.
  2. Analyze the use of imagery, language, universal themes, and unique aspects of the text.
  3. Support important ideas and viewpoints through accurate and detailed references to the text and to other works.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the author's use of stylistic devices and an appreciation of the effects created.
  5. Identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities, nuances, and complexities within the text.
Reading: Literary Response and Analysis
Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text
3.3 Analyze the ways in which irony, tone, mood, the author's style, and the "sound" of language achieve specific rhetorical or aesthetic purposes or both.
Supporting Standards


Smiley Select and adapt these learning activities to best meet the needs of your students, and to fit the time available:
  1. Read Heart of Darkness and complete the reading guide.

  2. Background research -

  3. Supporting character mind-maps: the doctor, the accountant, the manager, the brick maker, the helmsman, the Russian.

  4. Foreshadowing - previews of Kurtz: record quotes describing Kurtz and his deeds from chapters one and two - present a diagram comparing the reported Kurtz and the one we meet in chapter three.

  5. 3 level guide - Kurtz's last words. Here's how to do it. See also Three Level Reading Guides from ESOL Online.

  6. River map - chart Marlow's journey, illustrating key episodes, characters and images.

  7. Analyze sample essay - annotate and analyze the success or failure of an essay about Heart of Darkness.

  8. Complete the close reading template for Heart of Darkness.

  9. Jigsaw teaching - stages of Marlow's journey (setting):
    • Company offices
    • 1st station (to p 38)
    • 2nd station (to p 59)
    • the river/Russian's hut (to p 66)
    • the river (to p 90)
    • Kurtz' inner station

  10. The landscape as character - chart quotes from task three, linking them with aspects of symbolism and theme.

  11. How does Heart of Darkness fit the theme of "Civilization versus Savagery"? (See the follow up, below).

  12. The parallels between Apocalypse Now (the Academy Award winning movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola) and Heart of Darkness are powerful. If time permits and you are able to show an R-rated film (permission slips may be required), here are some activities to help students delve into both film and novel.

  13. Investigate the parallels with Arthurian legend (particularly the quest for the Holy Grail). This could be a quick background exercise, or a more detailed background research exercise through exploring Arthurian Legend.

  14. Read The Hollow Men and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.


CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) Response to Literature/Expository Text Scoring Guide will be used to assess the essay in #10.





This module could be part of a full year program.

As such, students are required to use the course texts as a launching point for their own investigation of the theme 'Civilization versus Savagery'. Other texts in the course include Equus by Peter Shaffer, Othello by William Shakespeare, various poems and short stories by Allen Ginsberg and T.S. Eliot and a thematic study of advertising that investigates the images of civilization that are presented by the image-makers.

The one major spin-off from designing this program along thematic lines can be the increased ability and willingness of the students to think critically beyond the boundaries of the text at hand. Debates have been wide-ranging and thrilling, with each student contributing ideas from his own cultural perspective, challenging each other's concepts of civilization. If you don't like the content, fine - try the structure.