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.
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 novella, Heart of Darkness, was written in 1899, near the end of the imperialism of Africa. Far from European civilization, the imperialists are without rules and ransacking Africa in search ivory and glory. One of the most significant themes in Heart of Darkness is the psychological issues catalyzed by the lawlessness of the jungle. Due to the breakdown of societal convention, the characters of Heart of Darkness are exposed to not only the corruption of imperialism, but the sickness of their minds.
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.
In Joseph Conrad’s book, Heart of Darkness, the globe is imagined as one where there are those that are civilized and those that are considered “savages” and “barbarians” by the civilized people. These civilized people are the Europeans, and the so-called “savages” are the African slaves.
Achebe argues that the racist observed in the Heart of Darkness is expressed due to the western psychology or as Achebe states “desire,” this being to show Africa as an antithesis to Europe. He first states Conrad as “one of the great stylists of modern fiction.” [pg.1] He praises Conrad’s talents in writing but believes Conrad’s obvious racism has not been addressed. He later describes in more detail that
In Cry, the beloved country, Alan Paton tells the story of his journey across Africa, his experiences with the colonized Africa, and the destruction of the beautiful, pre-colonialism native land of Africa. Heart of Darkness also tells the story of a man and his experiences with colonialism, but a man who comes from a different time period and a very different background than Alan Paton’s Stephen Kumalo. Although, both Joseph Conrad and Alan Paton portray the colonized areas as very negative, death filled, and sinful places, it is when one analyzes the descriptions of the native lands of Africa that the authors reasons for their disapproval of colonialism are truly revealed. When comparing the writing styles of Alan Paton and Joseph Conrad,
Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness portrays an image of Africa that is dark and inhuman. Not only does he describe the actual, physical continent of Africa as "so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness" (Conrad 94), as though the continent could neither breed nor support any true human life, but he also manages to depict Africans as though they are not worthy of the respect commonly due to the white man. At one point the main character, Marlow, describes one of the paths he follows: "Can't say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I
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.
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 published his novel, Heart of Darkness, in 1902, during the height of European Colonization in Africa. The novel follows Marlow, a sailor, on his journey deeper and deeper into the Congo on a mission to bring the mysterious ivory trader, Kurtz, back to “civilization”. Both the topic and language of the novel elicit debate over whether or not the text is inherently racist, and specifically, whether or not the novel supports certain historical texts from around the same time period. Around 1830, G.W.F Hegel published an essay entitled “The African Character.” Hegel’s essay illustrates racial essentialism, the idea that there are certain traits that are essential to the identity of one group, or race, Hegel presents what he deems
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.
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.