Cultural Collisions in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart

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Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart both take place in the imperialist era. Authors Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe, respectively, created main characters that came from different continents, but experienced similar cultural clashes. Although Marlow and Okonkwo have different lifestyles, they are both led to question their identities and make life-defining decisions. The most prominent difference between Marlow and Okonkwo is their cultural backgrounds. Marlow has no family, only his shipmates to accompany him. He goes through his physical journey to the Inner Station by himself for the most part, though he meets important individuals along the way. Okonkwo, however, has a large family with multiple wives and children, as well as…show more content…
It was extremely difficult for Okonkwo and his family to adjust to the new environment they were thrown into: “Okonkwo and his family worked very hard to plant a new farm. But it was like beginning life anew without the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, like learning to become left-handed in old age” (Achebe 131). While in Mbanta, he learns of white missionaries invading the land. He is then faced with a whole new cultural collision, both religious and societal. Marlow and Okonkwo struggle with an inner conflict and a battle between everything they have ever known and the new culture threatening to invalidate all of their dearly-held values. They are faced with an identity crisis-they are compelled to question who they truly are and the core of their being. They become skeptical of their purpose, and the way they respond to their emotional and mental battles will define the rest of their lives. Both men were seen as strong and valiant, but they both become weak and struggle to find a solution to their problems. The characters have dissimilar ways of responding to their inner conflicts: Okonkwo holds stubbornly to his instilled principles and traditions, while Marlow begins to question and nullify the behaviors of his native ethnicity. Marlow begins to understand the cruelty of the whites and even calls them devils: “I’ve seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed…but, by all the stars!

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