Theme Of Imperialism In Heart Of Darkness

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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, published in 1899, focuses on the effects that imperialism has on the human mind. However, it has been widely criticized for its racist language and depiction of Africa. Regardless, this novel serves as a literary work of art and should not be seen solely as a racist novel. Heart of Darkness shows Marlow’s shift in perspective in respect to imperialism. Marlow has an imperialistic point of view, but he is more judgmental of it than in favor of it. In one circumstance, he calls the company a “wretched steamboat business” (Conrad 26). Also, he is just as judgmental of the whites as much as he is with the natives; he even goes as far as to realize that while the natives are inhuman, the white men resemble them…show more content…
While critics like Chinua Achebe argue that Heart of Darkness is a racist interpretation of Africa and reject it as a literary work of art, they fail to realize many factors. For one, Hampson believes they deliberately ignore crucial evidence, especially in regards to the contrast between the two women in the novel. They conclude that the African mistress serves as a barbaric counterpart to the elegant, mature European woman (Hampson 3). Even Marlow points out that Kurtz’s fiance has a “mature capacity for fidelity” (Hampson 3). As a result, he puts her in a positive light compared to the more unrefined mistress. However, by leaving out Marlow’s observation of the “not girlish” European, Achebe gives a negative impression of the passage (Hampson 3). He also ignores the fact that the African woman represents passion whereas the European woman is associated with decay (Hampson 3). As a result, they contrast each other; Kurtz’s mistress is “savage and superb” (Conrad 58) whereas Kurtz’s fiance is “delicate” and truthful (Conrad 68). In a way, the women who were the closest to Kurtz serve as each other’s foil -- something that Achebe ignores. In addition to this, Achebe fails to realize who the intended audience was and disregards the context of the time when the novel released. Benita Parry emphasizes that the intended readers were the subscribers of Blackwood’s Magazine and New Review (Hampson 5). In the end, Achebe only regards the novel as a text of the 1890s and overlooks the context behind it which leads him to have a negative impression of Conrad’s
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