Edward Said, author of “Two Visions in the Heart of Darkness”, provides commentary on the work of Conrad exclaiming that Conrad provided readers a sense of humanity to the inhumane treatments regarding colonization by European powers. Said understands that the primary theme of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness lies in the dissonance of culture and purpose of these African citizens as a result of imperialism.
Chinua Achebe, a well-known writer, once gave a lecture at the University of Massachusetts about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, entitled "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Throughout his essay, Achebe notes how Conrad used Africa as a background only, and how he "set Africa up as a foil to Europe,"(Achebe, p.251) while he also "projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization."(Achebe, p.252) By his own interpretations of the text, Achebe shows that Conrad eliminates "the African as a human factor," thereby "reducing Africa to the role of props."(Achebe, p.257)
Joseph Conrad’s short novel, Heart of Darkness, is a story of imperialism in the Congo that depicts the mistreatment of the african natives by european imperialists. Conrad’s tale is often seen as controversial for its racist use of slang and image of Africa and its people as a whole. However, Conrad wrote the book as a means of viewing the horrid actions of imperialism, through the eyes of a european.
Joseph Conrad 's Heart of Darkness is both a dramatic tale of an arduous trek into the Belgian Congo at the turn of the twentieth century and a symbolic journey into the deepest recesses of human nature. On a literal level, through Marlow 's narration, Conrad provides a searing indictment of European colonial exploitation inflicted upon African natives. By employing several allegoric symbols this account depicts the futility of the European presence in Africa.
In Chinua Achebe’s essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad 's Heart of Darkness,” Achebe purports that Joseph Conrad’s short story, Heart of Darkness, should not be taught due to it’s racist caricature of Africa and African culture. In Conrad’s book, Marlow, a sea captain, is tasked with venturing into the center of the Congo, otherwise known as the Heart of Darkness, to retrieve a mentally unstable ivory trader named Kurtz. Marlow narrates his adventures with a tinge of apathy for the enslaved Congolese who are repressed beneath the foot of the colonizing Belgians. In Heart of Darkness, the Africans are reduced to “savages” and cannibals with little or no moral values. It is Achebe’s argument that due to these characterizations, it is an abomination that Heart of Darkness be continued to be taught. Despite Achebe’s vehement opposition to the teaching of Conrad’s novel, academics should not only continue to teach Heart of Darkness in a lyrical sense, but also a historical one.
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, CHINUA. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Massachusetts Review, vol. 57, no. 1, Spring2016, pp. 14-27. EBSCOhost, scsl.idm.oclc.org/login?auth=discus&url=http://search.ebscohost.com.scsl.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=114187095&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Conrad, in Heart of Darkness, challenges the values of colonialism, but at the same time he conforms to the constraints of popular culture of the time in which he wrote. In this way, the extent to which he challenges mainstream ideas is limited in regards to the angles of his criticism. Conrad’s detailed descriptions of the Europeans in Heart of Darkness implicate his discontent towards colonial practices whilst certain references to the “black fellows” who reside in Africa show his opinions are influenced by his time, and thusly impact his acquired knowledge of what is politically correct or incorrect. Conrad challenges stereotypical
Achebe also criticises Conrad’s lack of language for his African characters as dehumanising in its attempt to strip the characters of respectable voices by instead describing their language as “animalistic grunts” and “cries”. The few instances within the novel where an African character speaks English are described by Achebe as deliberate in their insinuation that the African people are unintelligent and illiterate. Achebe again contrasts Conrad’s use of Africa as a place of “dehumanisation” as alienating the African people rather than inspiring inhumanity in the white colonialists that have travelled there. While many readers would agree with the failed attempt at the exploration of racism, one must contend that writing about something does not necessarily remove it from criticism and as such when reading Heart of Darkness one can gather the inklings of prejudice weaved within the text by an author who is known for racist values. While the text is deserving of appreciation, as for some it is deemed a literary masterpiece, one cannot ignore the racist undertones of the novel as it is clear that Conrad has prejudices towards Africa and her people and that these feelings were intertwined into the plot. Conrad’s main characters all have some racist values ranging from blissful ignorance to downright hatred to the African people and in
Although the controversy-inducing novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad displays strong tones of racism and dehumanization of an entire race, it is a story that forces readers to alter their perspectives on the beliefs and preconceived norms of society. Referred to as a ‘minor work’ by critics of his time, by the 1960’s, Conrad’s novella had risen to become a standard reading in many high schools and colleges. Many modern critics, including Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe and American literary critic J. Hillis Miller, have regarded this novel as either deserving of close intellectual reading or a novel that should not even be read at all. Heart of Darkness should be taught in the 21st century, as a part of the Western literary canon, not
3] Achebe believes that Conrad deliberately showed Mr. Kurtz’s mistress as a “savage counterpart to the refined, European woman.” [pg.4] As he moves into more detail of the difference, he moves into the subject of the black’s lack of speech.
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.
Achebe comments on Conrad’s work as a hidden product of racism because criticisms for Heart of Darkness
He uses derogatory and offensive remarks that devalue people of color and make them out to be savages. Chinua Achebe, a well-known writer, talked about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, entitled "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Throughout his essay, Achebe notes how Conrad "set Africa up as a foil to Europe,"(Achebe) while he also "projects the image of Africa as “the other world”. Africa is said to be a “prehistoric” world. Conrad described this land as non-advanced and inferior to the western countries.
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.