In Chinua Achebe’s essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad 's Heart of Darkness,” Achebe purports that Joseph Conrad’s short story, Heart of Darkness, should not be taught due to it’s racist caricature of Africa and African culture. In Conrad’s book, Marlow, a sea captain, is tasked with venturing into the center of the Congo, otherwise known as the Heart of Darkness, to retrieve a mentally unstable ivory trader named Kurtz. Marlow narrates his adventures with a tinge of apathy for the enslaved Congolese who are repressed beneath the foot of the colonizing Belgians. In Heart of Darkness, the Africans are reduced to “savages” and cannibals with little or no moral values. It is Achebe’s argument that due to these characterizations, it is an abomination that Heart of Darkness be continued to be taught. Despite Achebe’s vehement opposition to the teaching of Conrad’s novel, academics should not only continue to teach Heart of Darkness in a lyrical sense, but also a historical one.
In Heart of Darkness, the reader is given the a first person account of the horrors of imperialism bolstered by Conrad’s own experience travelling up the Congo River. Patrick Brantlinger, a professor from Indiana University, defends Conrad noting that, “much of the ‘horror’ either depicted or suggested in Heart of Darkness… exposed Leopold 's bloody system between the time of his return to England and the composition of the novella in 1898-99.” Even Achebe at concedes in his essay, “An Image of
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King Leopold was abusing his position of power to exploit the Congo for it’s raw materials, it can be said that the vivid cruel and gruesome images Conrad conveys in the book are merely mirroring the harsh reality of the brutalisation in Africa. One could therefore conclude that due to Conrad’s own experiences in the Congo he has to tell his story through a framed narrative, as it may be too difficult for him to share his story in the first person. Whether this was the case or not, it is clear than in ‘Heart of Darkness’ Conrad reveals the abuse of power to be ever present in the colonial age that Conrad lived in, and he demonstrates the abuse of power as something to be wary of and to fear, as it can result in madness.
Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, describes a life-altering journey that the protagonist, Marlow, experiences in the African Congo. The story explores the historical period of colonialism in Africa to exemplify Marlow's struggles. Marlow, like other Europeans of his time, is brought up to believe certain things about colonialism, but his views change as he experiences colonialism first hand. This essay will explore Marlow's view of colonialism, which is shaped through his experiences and also from his relation to Kurtz. Marlow's understanding of Kurtz's experiences show him the effects colonialism can have on a man's soul.
In the article "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," Chinua Achebe criticizes Joseph Conrad for his racist views toward the natives of Africa. After one reads Achebe’s critique, it is clear that Conrad wanted the novella to be perceived as a racist text. Conrad depicts the uncivilized treatment of nonwhites during the period of colonization without condemning such actions. After analyzing Achebe’s famous work and Conrad’s novella I have come to agree with Achebe; Conrad “was a thoroughgoing racist.” (Achebe) Heart of Darkness portrays this position clearly. Throughout the novella, Conrad describes and represents the Africans and Africa itself in a racist way. According to Chinua Achebe, the harsh behavior of English people towards the natives, the lack of equality felt by the English towards the Africans, and the word choices of the English to and about the savages reveal Conrad's racist position in the work.
As the Heart of Darkness snakes its way into the savage shadows of the African continent, Joseph Conrad exposes a psycho-geography of the collective unconscious in the entangling metaphoric realities of the serpentine Congo. Conrad’s novella descends into the unknowable darkness at the heart of Africa, taking its narrator, Marlow, on an underworld journey of individuation, a modern odyssey toward the center of the Self and the center of the Earth. Ego dissolves into soul as, in the interior, Marlow encounters his double in the powerful image of ivory-obsessed Kurtz, the dark shadow of European imperialism. The dark meditation is graced by personifications of anima in Kurtz’ black goddess, the savagely magnificent consort of the underworld,
Heart of Darkness creates a prejudice way of presenting Africa, Joseph Conrad shows the African Congo through the perspective of the colonising Europeans, who describe all the natives as savages, which perpetuates the stereotype of the uncivilised African in the eyes of the European readers.
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has allowed me to view the world through a multitude of new lenses. In seeing Kurtz and Marlow’s disintegration when removed from society’s watchful eye, I began to understand that all people have a streak of darkness in them under the right circumstances. While the narrator, and many readers at the time of this novella’s publication, believed that the African natives being colonized were “savages”, this book sheds light on the true brutes in this scenario: the thoughtless Europeans. The other complexity that I never truly understood until reading this book, is the idea that there is a single story told about Africans in Western literature. Africa is portrayed as weak, primitive, and impoverished in most books
Joseph Conrad 's Heart of Darkness is both a dramatic tale of an arduous trek into the Belgian Congo at the turn of the twentieth century and a symbolic journey into the deepest recesses of human nature. On a literal level, through Marlow 's narration, Conrad provides a searing indictment of European colonial exploitation inflicted upon African natives. By employing several allegoric symbols this account depicts the futility of the European presence in Africa.
Conrad, in Heart of Darkness, challenges the values of colonialism, but at the same time he conforms to the constraints of popular culture of the time in which he wrote. In this way, the extent to which he challenges mainstream ideas is limited in regards to the angles of his criticism. Conrad’s detailed descriptions of the Europeans in Heart of Darkness implicate his discontent towards colonial practices whilst certain references to the “black fellows” who reside in Africa show his opinions are influenced by his time, and thusly impact his acquired knowledge of what is politically correct or incorrect. Conrad challenges stereotypical
In Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the imperialism of Africa is described. Conrad tells the story of the cruel treatment of the natives and of the imperialism of the Congo region through the perspective of the main character, Marlow. Throughout the novel, Marlow describes how the Europeans continuously bestow poor treatment to the native people by enslaving them in their own territory. Analyzing the story with the New Criticism lens, it is evident that Conrad incorporates numerous literary devices in Heart of Darkness, including similes, imagery, personification, and antitheses to describe and exemplify the main idea of cruel imperialism in Africa discussed throughout the novella.
In his famous critical essay, “An Image of Africa” (1975), Chinua Achebe takes a strong stance against Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. He asserts that Conrad was a racist and his novella is a product of his racism. A following quote that is good to show Achebe opinion for Conrad is:
Chinua Achebe, a well-known writer, once gave a lecture at the University of Massachusetts about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, entitled "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Throughout his essay, Achebe notes how Conrad used Africa as a background only, and how he "set Africa up as a foil to Europe,"(Achebe, p.251) while he also "projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization."(Achebe, p.252) By his own interpretations of the text, Achebe shows that Conrad eliminates "the African as a human factor," thereby "reducing Africa to the role of props."(Achebe, p.257)
A famous criticism of Conrad’s novella is called An Image of Africa, which was written by an African native named Chinua Achebe. In Achebe’s criticisms of Heart of Darkness, he points out the difference between descriptions of the European woman and the African woman, who was Kurtz’s mistress. The narrator describes the European woman as being calm and mature, and the African woman as being “savage” (341 Norton). Even though many writers claim that Marlow is kind to the Africans by bringing light to their situation, the real problem does not lie in his description of their situations, but his descriptions of the people themselves (30 Heart of darkness Interpretations).
Joseph Conrad often mocked the African peoples. In his novel, Heart of Darkness, he referred to the African people as “savages” and used strong language that looked down upon them. Conrad describes a passing native, “They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages.” Conrad depicts the Africans in very vivid descriptions and uses negative language with an almost disgusted tone. He sees the Africans as inhuman, feels they are not civilized, and believes himself to be far more superior than them. Conrad does not bother to try and understand their culture or language. He insults their language and believes it is merely just incomprehensible grunts. Conrad remarks that looking at an African “was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind legs.” The comparison he uses is very insulting to the African people and so degrading that Conrad found an African working as so surprising. He was taken away that an African could be civilized and Conrad was just mocking the natives. By using such cynical language, Conrad changes what the readers think of Africans to become negative. This view of African peoples from Conrad contrasts Achebe’s perspective of African peoples and their lives which was more influenced by his own race, culture, and beliefs just as Conrad’s novel was.
looked at a map of it in a shop window, it fascinated me as a snake
In “An Image of Africa”, Chinua Achebe comes to the bold conclusion that Joseph Conrad “was a bloody racist” (788), with his discussion centering primarily on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a racist text. Achebe’s reasoning for this branding rests on the claims that Conrad depicts Africa as “a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar in comparison with which Europe 's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest” (783), that Africans in Heart of Darkness are dehumanized through both the characterization of individual Africans and the Congo as a setting, and finally that Marlow is no more than a mouthpiece for Conrad’s personal views on race and imperialism. However, Achebe makes critical oversights and contradictions in the development of each of these argumentative pillars, which prove fatal to the validity of his overarching contention. This should not be construed, though, as a yes-or-no assessment of whether Conrad was a racist outside of what his written work suggests—Achebe himself has “neither the desire nor, indeed, the competence to do so with the tools of the social and biological sciences” (783)—but as an assessment of claims specific to Heart of Darkness and their implications for Conrad’s views and attitudes.