Achebe An Image Of Africa Analysis

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To begin, Achebe’s primary contention with Heart of Darkness involves Conrad’s alleged dehumanization of indigenous Africans, as Conrad often diminishes the non-White natives encountered within his text to an impersonal collection of “limbs or rolling eyes.” (Achebe, “An Image of Africa”) Conrad’s depersonalized portrayals of African people arise throughout the text, manifesting most superficially as frantically animalistic, with the Africans that Marlow encounters being described early on as “mostly black and naked, [moving] about like ants.” (Conrad, Part I) Conrad later reduces his depiction of Africans to the level of abstractions as they are referred to as both “shadows” and “bundles of acute angles.” (Conrad, Part I) The humanity of the…show more content…
(Conrad, Part II) The defense against Achebe’s aforementioned conclusion that racism exists covert within the ornately nautical imagery of Heart of Darkness relies chiefly upon Conrad’s assumed authorial intent: it asserts that Conrad 's dehumanized portrayal of indigenous Africans aims to underscore the inhuman brutality imposed by the imperialistic goals of European civilization. This is evident, for example, when Conrad illuminates, through protagonist Marlow, the thematically maddening futility of imperialism as he recounts a story about Frensleven, a Danish colonizer who kills a native chief in an effort to “[assert] his self-respect in some way.” (Conrad, Part I) Accordingly, the Africans encountered within Heart of Darkness are not inherently savage, but rather are made so by the forces of imperialism, ultimately rendered “nothing but black shadows of diseases and starvation” because of…show more content…
Achebe accuses Conrad of presenting Africa as “the other world.” The primitive Congo Basin serves as the setting for the latter half of the text, sharply contrasting with the enlightened tranquility of the Thames River, illuminated as a “lurid glare under the stars” both literally and figuratively by the civilization of European society, (Part 1) detailed at the beginning of the novel. Conrad, thereby, subtly develops binary antagonisms between Europe and Africa from the onset of Heart of Darkness, the most egregious examples of this existing even within the introductory imageries of the text. The Africa of Heart of Darkness is “unearthly,” “prehistoric,” wearing “the aspect of an unknown planet.” (Part II) While, although occasionally romanticizing the Congo for its primitive equivocation and mystery, Conrad maintains constancy in his scornful depiction of the river basin and those clans who subsist there, demonstrating the incomprehensible differences existent between the civilized European man and his primeval counterpart as he states, “The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us- who could tell?” (Part II) Hence, Achebe accuses Conrad of prioritizing European experience over that of Africa with African civilization functioning as “a foil to Europe,” antithetical in sophistication and value: to Conrad, Achebe believes, within the Congo lies the
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