Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

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People like to believe that social constructs and ideas have changed more over time

than they actually have. For many years, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was a treasured

classic, with many honourable themes and messages, as the author reveals the true nature of

humanity by following an European sailor’s journey through the dark jungles of Africa and down

the river Congo, all while watching as his own humanity changes. As society has evolved,

however, Heart of Darkness has come under scrutiny, as the language is quite racist. Chinua

Achebe, writer of An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, used his essay to

highlight the racism prevalent in Conrad’s writing, but many avid Conrad readers defend the

book, arguing that the book was written in a very racist time period and most of the racist

language and descriptions can be excused. Regardless, it is time that society, particularly white

and European society, recognizes that Achebe is correct in saying that the assumptions,

characterization and setting used in Heart of Darkness were racist then, and are racist now.

It is not uncommon for people to make assumptions; in fact, they are a common and

necessary part of life. Unfortunately, though, they often become the ‘easy way out’ for writers

who are dealing with a place unknown to them. Achebe points out in his essay that Conrad did

just that, using “the dominant image of Africa” (56) and relying on “Western imagination” (56)

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