Animal Representation In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

1016 Words5 Pages
HL Language & Literature
Written Task 2

1. How and why is a social group represented in a particular way?

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the natives of Africa – the Blacks – were represented in such a way that they seemed to have close to little or no value compared to the Whites. The constant use of animal imagery in the novel is both a comparison and a symbol that has been used in order to dehumanize any character that was not White. As such, it can be said that the novel seeks to represent the Blacks of Africa as lowlife beings, prehistoric barbarians and savage creatures that have no rights to say anything for themselves. However, Conrad also shows a flipside to the typical ideology of Whites being superior to Blacks by representing the Blacks as a strong and restrained group of people, confined only due to helplessness.

In the novel, the natives of Africa are first introduced with the use of animal imagery. The sentence “A lot of people, mostly black and naked, moved about like ants,” describes the Africans that were building the railroad. By describing the men as “ants”, their insignificance in Marlow’s life is highlighted. To Marlow, the Africans hold no importance and he sees them as nothing more than insects. Moreover, Marlow describes the Africans as having “faces like grotesque masks”. The negative connotation of the word “grotesque” seeks to show the preconceived notions Marlow had regarding the Blacks. Never having come across a Black man before, the
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