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Is Joseph Conrad a Racist and Does His Work Portray It? Essay

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In his famous critical essay, “An Image of Africa” (1975), Chinua Achebe takes a strong stance against Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. He asserts that Conrad was a racist and his novella is a product of his racism. A following quote that is good to show Achebe opinion for Conrad is: The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. That this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work is due to the fact that white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked. (An Image of Africa, Achebe, 1975)

Achebe comments on Conrad’s work as a hidden product of racism because criticisms for Heart of Darkness
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We are told that "Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world.” (An Image of Africa, Achebe, 1975)

Achebe does make a point that Conrad distinguishes the two rivers (Thames and The Congo) as the polar opposites to one another. However, Conrad did not deter from the truth. Below are two images of the two rivers in 1899:
(Fig. 1: Equatorial Forest, Upper Congo (1899) - Credit: Édouard Foà) (Fig. 2: t137 Berkshire SONNING bridge River Thames 1899

These two images show a direct contrast to one another. The Congo image (Fig.1) has more nature surrounding its river, so in essence, the river will be much darker than Thames River. On the other hand, the Thames River (Fig.2) has been industrialized. As the image shows, there is a road and a bridge. There are not enough trees as the Congo and you see there is much more light in this area. As I mentioned before, Heart of Darkness is a product of its time. When Conrad compares the two rivers, Conrad is right about the Congo because “going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world.” There is no technological advances to its surroundings like the Thames River, so Conrad is not wrong for that comment or comparison. However, Achebe is not mad about the words that describes the rivers because he writes: It is not the differentness that worries Conrad but the lurking hint of kinship, of common ancestry. For the
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