Conrad’s description of these people shows them as deranged, frenzied, and intense feverish savages, not an image any modern day western writer would dare to warm up to. Nor could his English speaking readers understand the natives to be nothing but animate beasts and fascinating embodiments of sorrow. Joseph Conrad continues to reveal the ignorance of white men towards the African continent, as he depicts Africans as though they are “the other”, not to be considered as civilized human counterparts, but rather as brutes ready to be enslaved for a “better” cause. The impaired ideology of men and women alike agreed on this representation of the black race, yet they are heedless towards their certainly horrifying capacity to brutally yet ineffectively ameliorate an entire
That ideology was widespread in the West and few dared to speak against it because it is difficult to fight the belief which is inhered in the society. This could be a reason why Conrad did not write about his objection to imperialism more clearly. Still, he could have tried harder to not represent African people as savages, but as normal human beings. Chinua Achebe claims that Heart of Darkness is racist and “[t]hat this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work (...) due to the fact that white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked.” (21) Similarly, Rino Zhuwarara writes that by describing Africa and its inhabitants in a stereotypical way, using “myths and prejudices” Conrad “is in fact pandering to the predilections of a
In this novel he speaks through his main character Marlow about white settlers colonizing Africa, harming, exploiting and, portraying the natives in many inhumane ways. Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian author, found this work particularly racist and wrote a response to it, “An Image of Africa”. Through Achebe’s work, we realize Heart of Darkness contained a single story leaving naive readers with a single image of African natives.
Considered “among the half-dozen greatest short novels in the English language” by some scholars, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has been scrutinized and praised by many scholars around the world. However, beneath this glory and praise lies a certain darkness, hidden from many Western scholars by the walls of ignorance. Among those who saw through those walls was revered Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. In his essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” Achebe acutely identifies subtle patterns, word choices, and styles Conrad uses that help us presume Conrad’s attitude towards Africa and Africans, while refuting potential counterarguments. Achebe’s first issue with Heart of Darkness is the oversimplification and the barbaric delineation of Africa and the native people.
Due to the preeminence of men in the novella, women are depicted solely from a male perspective. There are three women in the text: Kurtz’s Intended, Marlow’s aunt and Kurtz’s African mistress. Joseph Conrad utilizes femininity as a medium in which he can emphasize the dissimilarity of European and African society. Conrad categorizes the three women into two different archetypes: Mr. Kurtz’s Intended and Marlow’s aunt embody the archetypal Victorian woman, while Kurtz’s mistress is modeled after the African woman. By separating the females into two groups, Conrad is able to draw a distinct line between 19th century African and European culture.
What is particularly interesting is that Conrad transformed a personal experience into a fiction of general historical and cultural significance. With little sense of strain, he moved from self to society; it was one of his eccentricities to mythologize an historical self, to place his own life at the heart of historical conflicts. (Ross) The ‘Heart of Darkness’ is representative of the African continent which is perceived to be at the centre of the Earth and that which was believed to be lagging in terms of progression and development. But by the end of the novella, readers question this notion: is it really Africa that is hidden away in darkness or the hearts of the brutal colonizers under whom the natives have suffered in their own land? The plot of the novella revolves around Charles Marlow the protagonist, who is along with his fellow sailors aboard his ship Nellie anchored in the river Thames, narrating the story of his journey into the African continent, or as the Whites would put it “the heart of darkness.” This was the place that kept him wondering from childhood as depicted in
To some, the continent is a depressing place whose people are bereft of the will to cope with political, economic and moral decline. Others are of the impression that the continent sits on superstition, resentment and xenophobia. According to Harris (1996), the rest of the world treat the African continent as a pet and view them with fear and loathing.Contrary to this uncouth mislabelling, the opinion of Parker et al (2001)is that the problem for historians is how to reconstruct the lived experience of individual Africans within narratives of social change, economic transformation and imperial conquest. Inwhat appears like a defence of Africa, according to his review of Darkest England, Harris (1996) reveals that Christopher Hope is not content with detailing the unwholesome diet and odd sexual practices of the English; he also finds even their impulses to do good sinister. According to him, once set upon that path, the English are merciless.
As Marlow read this book, he began to forget about the chaotic world around him, and it made him feel something normal from civilization. Conrad is using this plot event and the setting of the cottage to show the difference in the Europeans principles of order and chaos, as well as show how some of them use this order to shield themselves from the chaos. Conrad also uses many examples of how the sham of civilization hides the truth of our human nature. Conrad compares the Native Africans to the raw
Conrad explains his belief that society is vital through character description, setting description, and various aspects of the novellas plot while also showing the dangers involved in the process of imperialism. Despite these dangers, through the tone and diction that Conrad uses, we as readers can see that he supports imperialism. He believes it is the only thing that can shield us from the darkness that lies within us all and the only way to stop us from committing horrible acts is to get as far away from our instincts as possible. In the end this novella is an example of the lack of control humans have a tendency to practice without rules and consequences to correct
Conrad’s novella is from a white man’s point of view who travels to the Congo. On the other hand, Achebe’s story is based on an African’s point of view which he intentionally wrote to combat this negative image of Africans. While Achebe’s character’s can speak for its culture, lifestyle and traditions, Conrad’s character can only speak about what he sees and they stereotypical portrayal of Africans. According to Hunt Hawkins, “Achebe observes that Africans are barely present in Heart Of Darkness… It might be said that Conrad failed to portray Africans because he knew little of their culture, having spent less than six months in the Congo, mostly in the company of white men, and without knowledge of any African language.” Since this story is told by Marlow in the Congo, it focuses on a foreigner’s portrayal of Africans during the nineteenth century. Imagine going to a foreign place and being completely lost towards its culture and people.