One of the most reoccuring themes in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, is the theme of race, more specifically, racism by the European and American characters towards the African characters. Critics of the book condemn Conrad as being racist, while others claim that it is just representative of the time period and that how Conrad depicted certain characters and groups within the novel was not uncommon during the time period that the book was written. Published in 1899, at that time it was not unusual for white people to have racist views towards people of other races. Whether or not Conrad was aware that some of the statements made in the book were racist and whether or not he actually intended for race to play as such a large
Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, effectively exposed the racism that was common during his lifetime. Through the harsh behavior and word choice of the characters and narrator, Conrad displays the uncivilized treatment of nonwhites that occurred during the period of colonization. Edward Garnett, an English writer and critic, summarized the plot of Heart of Darkness as being “an impression… of the civilizing methods of a certain great European Trading Company face to face with the “nigger” (145 Heart of darkness backgrounds and Criticisms). Conrad use of harsh language and terrifying situations, which were based off of his own experiences, capture the audience’s attention and helps them see the cruelty of the European
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 “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.
Discrimination is seen across every culture, in every nation, in every time period. In some cultures these levels are seen in socioeconomic groups, races, or even gender. Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, challenges the morality behind discrimination. Conrad’s novella challenges reader’s view of racism through lies, stereotypes and symbolism.
Achebe comments on Conrad’s work as a hidden product of racism because criticisms for Heart of Darkness
For example, Marlow mentions his helmsman as a piece of machinery, and Kurtz’s African mistress is, at best, just something wild and beautiful to look at. It can be said that Heart of Darkness takes part in the oppression of nonwhites. The African people become a mere background for Marlow, a human screen that he can play out his philosophical struggles. Their existence enables his self-contemplation. This kind of dehumanization is much harder to identify than open racism of colonial violence. While Heart of Darkness offers a powerful criticism of the hypocritical actions of imperialism, it also presents a set of problems surrounding
Conrad has been accused of racism because of the way he portrays the natives in his novel, Heart of Darkness. It has been argued that the natives cannot be an essential part of Heart of Darkness due to the manner in which they are depicted. However, a careful reading reveals that the story would be incomplete without the natives. Marlow develops a relationship with one of the natives - perhaps the first time in his life that Marlow creates a bond with someone outside of his own race.
Many critics today find it easy to label historical novels and other pieces of literature as products of discrimination. They often think that the novels written one to two centuries ago explicitly discriminate minorities, women, and people espousing radical views on society. One critic that accused a twentieth century novel of discrimination was Chinua Achebe. In his essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, Achebe describes Conrad as being racist towards Africans and argues that European civilization was essentially below that of the African natives. The author of Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, explores the colonization of Africa by the Europeans and argues that imperializing Africa will incur more collateral damage towards both the Africans and the Europeans than what was originally expected. Based on a through
When I read Heart of Darkness, I did think it was a racist book. The story revolves around a character named Marlow, who goes to work in the Congo. The labor for the company he works for comes from the slavery of the native people. The author, Joseph Conrad, depicts these people as savages, which is also very racist. Also, when he refers to them, he uses a racial slur, rather than calling them black people or finding another way to state that they are not white. Throughout the book Conrad also depicts a lot of violence towards these people, which I saw as unnecessary since most of the time it is not explained and does not further develop the story. These are the reasons why I think Heart of Darkness is racist.
For the most part people who read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad may feel that the novella is strictly a story of exploration and racial discrimination. But to Johanna Smith who wrote “’Too Beautiful Altogether’: Ideologies of Gender and Empire in Heart of Darkness” it is much more than that. Johanna Smith along with Wallace Watson and Rita A. Bergenholtz agree that throughout Heart of Darkness there are tones of gender prejudice, but the way that these three different authors perceive and interpret those gender tones are to a certain extent different.
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
There have been many different examinations of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness since it was published in 1899, a time where the Age of Imperialism was in full effect. The novel has stirred much controversy over its actual meaning, and many of these critiques have looked at the novel as being racist, anti-imperialist, or some other form. Due to the particular nature of Conrad’s life and the societal factors that impacted him, there were many influences that contributed to the reasons for why and how the book was written. A combination of the biographical and socio-historic schools of criticism is the best way to understand racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness because of how the novel could have been viewed as satirical or racist according
“An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: Norton Print.
In the article "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," Chinua Achebe criticizes Joseph Conrad for his racist views toward the natives of Africa. After one reads Achebe’s critique, it is clear that Conrad wanted the novella to be perceived as a racist text. Conrad depicts the uncivilized treatment of nonwhites during the period of colonization without condemning such actions. After analyzing Achebe’s famous work and Conrad’s novella I have come to agree with Achebe; Conrad “was a thoroughgoing racist.” (Achebe) Heart of Darkness portrays this position clearly. Throughout the novella, Conrad describes and represents the Africans and Africa itself in a racist way. According to Chinua Achebe, the harsh behavior of English people towards the natives, the lack of equality felt by the English towards the Africans, and the word choices of the English to and about the savages reveal Conrad's racist position in the work.