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Essay about Cultural Collisions in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart

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Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart both take place in the imperialist era. Authors Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe, respectively, created main characters that came from different continents, but experienced similar cultural clashes. Although Marlow and Okonkwo have different lifestyles, they are both led to question their identities and make life-defining decisions.
The most prominent difference between Marlow and Okonkwo is their cultural backgrounds. Marlow has no family, only his shipmates to accompany him. He goes through his physical journey to the Inner Station by himself for the most part, though he meets important individuals along the way. Okonkwo, however, has a large family with multiple wives and children, as well as an entire village that is closely knit together. The two men also have very different customs and traditions. Marlow has been brought up in a society that thinks of whites as a superior race, and blacks as inferior, uncivilized primitives. Okonkwo, however, was raised in a Nigerian village, where proverbs had great philosophical meaning, and nature was commonly used in similes and symbolism. Okonkwo’s only familiarity with the Caucasian ethnicity is an encounter with an “albino” (Achebe 138).
Though Marlow and Okonkwo are from very differing cultures, they both experience cultural clashes along their journeys and are forced to respond to them. Marlow, for example, sets out on a journey to an entirely new continent, on the rivers of a completely unknown civilization. As he travels deeper into the Inner Station and, symbolically, the heart of darkness, he is forced to challenge the beliefs of his people and he is faced with the temptations of wealth and power. On the other hand, Okonkwo i...


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...nse against the Earth, and a man who commits it will not be buried by his clansmen” (Achebe 207). Unfortunately, the aggressive, eminent hero of the tribe met his death by committing one of the greatest crimes against his people.
Marlow and Okonkwo come from different worlds, yet they both experience the same journey. They encounter cultural clashes, identity crises, and inner conflicts. They respond to these problems in their own ways: Marlow physically escapes, but Okonkwo does not. Both men end their story with a betrayal to their values and ways of life. Though Okonkwo and Marlow lived on different continents, they experienced similar physical and emotional voyages.



Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York, NY: Anchor House, 1994. Print.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Bantam Classic Edition. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1981. Print.


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