Summary Of Racism In Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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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. He claims that it is the desire “in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will manifest (Achebe 1784).” Instead of viewing Africa as land with an equal value as Europe, many Western scholars including Conrad, especially in Heart of Darkness, either consciously or subconsciously project Africa to be some “other world” governed not by law and civilization but by barbarism, a world that needs guidance from the intelligent and refined Europeans. Conrad wrote, “going up that [Congo] river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world,”
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