Heart Of Darkness Stereotypes Essay

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Joseph Conrad once said, “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” (Conrad, 1911) One of the greatest evils in this world are stereotypes. They restrict certain races, genders, ethnicities, and so forth into groups that reflect the judgements of what other people think of them. When one thinks of Africa, one thinks of tribes, uncivilized indigenous peoples, starvation, HIV/AIDS, disease, and poverty. Although these are frequently found in the continent, it does not reflect the beauty of the savannas, the uniqueness of the culture, or the abundance of natural resources. In the novella Heart of Darkness, Conrad reinforces the stereotypes about Africa by going into great depths…show more content…
By saying, “Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances.” (Conrad, page 54) Conrad has allowed the reader to feel uncomfortable. Words such as “warm”, “thick”, “heavy”, “no joy”, and “gloom” give the impression that this land is not exactly the place anyone wants to be. In “An Image of Africa” Achebe also reflects on this by asking whether or not Conrad is saying this river is lesser than that of the Thames. Achebe says, “But if it (Thames) were to visit its primordial relative, the Congo, it would run the terrible risk of hearing grotesque echoes of its own forgotten darkness, and falling victim to avenging recrudescence of the mindless frenzy of the first beginnings.” (Achebe, page 2), allowing the reader to understand why the Congo can be seen as a stereotype in the novella. The Congo is the heart of Africa, but with Conrad’s description, one might view it as horrifying and dark- creating a negative perception of the…show more content…
Stereotypes allow one to think of indigenous peoples as “uncivilized” or “unmodernized”. Throughout the entire novella not a single African is referred to by their name or even as human, only the white men are. This contrast is shown when Conrad says, “It was a distinct glimpse: the dugout, four paddling savages, and the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home--perhaps; setting his face towards the depth of the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station.” (Conrad, page 51) Another well-known quote from the novella is “Exterminate all the brutes!” (Conrad, page 83) in which Kurtz believes the only way to fix Africa is to rid it of all it’s people- which he certainly tries to by decapitating many of the natives, absolutely demoralizing the point of the journey. These terms “savages” and “brutes” completely degrade a person and strip them of their identities. Conrad also says, “He ought to have been clapping his hands and stamping his feet on the bank…” (Conrad, page 59) which shows there were already expectations for the Africans. However, Achebe reflects on the end of the previous quote, “instead of which he was hard at work…” (Conrad, page 59), claiming this is the first time Conrad has given “us one of his rare descriptions of an African who is not just limbs or rolling eyes.” (Achebe, page 3),
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