Racism And Sexism In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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When looking back at works of art, one must always keep in mind the time in which it was written. This is because while something may be considered sexist and racist in modern times, they would not have necessarily been viewed that way in the time it was written by the audience it was aimed toward.There is no doubt that Joseph Conrad was both racist and sexist, but so were most, if not all, of his peers at that time. And while it is important to note such features as they brought about many great discussions on his novel. However, this is not what is important or what should be discussed. Joseph Conrad’s apparent racism and sexism have brought about many long debated controversies surrounding Heart of Darkness, although it still remains that…show more content…
The racism that was so normalized among Conrad and his peers has since placed his novel under attack by Chinua Achebe, who claimed that “Art is not intended to put people down. If so, the art would ultimately discredit itself” and that if it pulled out and dehumanized such a large portion of the human race, it could truly not be considered a work of art (Phillips). Yet, the racism embedded in the novel played a much larger part than merely being racism. Both Conrad and Marlow are clearly racist, but Conrad knows that the superiority held by the Europeans was wrong, and he uses Marlow to view that and to show that there is a possibility for it to change. He knows that although he could see no alternative, it was possible just as he saw with Imperialism. When Marlow first meets the natives he does see “a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping, of feet stamping, of bodies swaying…” but throughout the book he develops (Part II). Marlow grieves when his helmsman dies, he respects the Congolese Woman, he knows they are human. And that in itself is an acknowledgement that he knew what we now call ‘racism’ was
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