Prejudice and Racism - No Racism in Heart of Darkness Essay

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No Racism in Heart of Darkness

Chinua Achebe challenges Joseph Conrad's novella depicting the looting of Africa, Heart of Darkness (1902) in his essay "An Image of Africa" (1975). Achebe's is an indignant yet solidly rooted argument that brings the perspective of a celebrated African writer who chips away at the almost universal acceptance of the work as "classic," and proclaims that Conrad had written "a bloody racist book" (Achebe 319). In her introduction in the Signet 1997 edition, Joyce Carol Oates writes, "[Conrad's] African natives are "dusty niggers," cannibals." Conrad [...] painfully reveals himself in such passages, and numerous others, as an unquestioning heir of centuries of Caucasian bigotry" (Oates 10). The
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Aside from suffering from a uniform one-dimensionality, in what appears to be a bid for sympathy, Conrad's black characters are portrayed as constantly pitiable, victimized beings, and discusses them as one might a horse or dog. Despite spending enough time amongst them for him to see so, Africans have no humanity for Marlow; in that, we can conclude that he is racist.

On the latter half of our question, "is Marlow an extension of Conrad's opinion?" Achebe also tenders the following: "It might be contended, of course, that the attitude to the African in Heart of Darkness is not Conrad's but that of his fictional narrator, Marlow, and that far from endorsing it Conrad might indeed be holding it up to irony and criticism" (318). However, he rejects this idea as quickly as it was proffered, citing Conrad's attempt to distance himself from the story by using a narrator who retells Marlow's narration, and mentions briefly that there are similarities between Marlow and Conrad in terms of real-life careers. Achebe neglects to address another important indication of the ties between Marlow and Conrad; Marlow's position as a character amongst the other characters. Our narrator throughout Heart of Darkness seems to be in awe of Marlow. From the first page, the reader is given a favorable impression of Marlow: "We four
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