Colonialism and Imperialism - The White Male and the Other in Heart of Darkness

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The European, White Male vs. the Other in Heart of Darkness

The novella Heart of Darkness has, since it's publication in 1899, caused much controversy and invited much criticism. While some have hailed it's author, Joseph Conrad as producing a work ahead of it's time in it's treatment and criticism of colonialist practices in the Congo, others, most notably Chinua Achebe, have criticized it for it's racist and sexist construction of cultural identity. Heart of Darkness can therefore be described as a text of it's time, as the cultural identity of the dominant society, that is, the European male is constructed in opposition to "the other", "the other" in Heart of Darkness being defined as black and/or female. Notions of cultural
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In the case of the second instance it is somewhat appropriate that the "leader's" death is announced by one of the people of the group he is seen to have joined. Therefore Africans are constructed as being inferior to Europeans through Conrad's refusal to grant them the power of language and speech and even when they are given the opportunity to speak, Conrad constructs Africans as being largely inarticulate. Thus confirming the superiority of the white race.

Conrad further marginalises and degrades the African characters and race not only through the denial of language but also the denial of human form. When Marlow first sees Africans in a small boat on the water, he describes them in terms of their "muscles", "bones" and "white teeth", despite also recognizing a vitality and spirit. The disembodiment continues when Marlow encounters the chain gang at the outer station. It is when seeking "shade" however that Marlow stumbles upon the grove of death. Here he finds emancipated and dying Africans, cast off by their imperialist "owners" because they are no longer deemed to have monetary value, or economic viability. Instead of feeling revulsion's at this, Marlow dehumanizes the Africans, describing them as "bundles of acute angles" and noting how they drink on "all fours". Thus by denying the Africans their humanity, Conrad constructs a notion
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