Racism Exposed in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness Essay

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Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, effectively exposed the racism that was common during his lifetime. Through the harsh behavior and word choice of the characters and narrator, Conrad displays the uncivilized treatment of nonwhites that occurred during the period of colonization. Edward Garnett, an English writer and critic, summarized the plot of Heart of Darkness as being “an impression… of the civilizing methods of a certain great European Trading Company face to face with the “nigger” (145 Heart of darkness backgrounds and Criticisms). Conrad use of harsh language and terrifying situations, which were based off of his own experiences, capture the audience’s attention and helps them see the cruelty of the European colonization of Africa.
The reality of racism during the 19th century is easily seen throughout Conrad’s novella. One major example of it is the voice of the narrator. Throughout the story, the narrator uses cruel adjectives when describing nonwhites. Marlow, the protagonist of the story, acts as the narrator for most of the story, and his descriptions of the nonwhite characters seem to be rooted in the idea that the African people were horrid creatures and animal like. In the second section of the novella, Marlow describes a wild elephant, which was the primary source of ivory. While describing the elephants, he writes, “They howled and leaped and spun and made horrid faces, but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough…” (36 Norton book). These descriptions of the elephant are ironically similar to the narrator’s description of nonwhite characters. In a description of some “bla...

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...e colonialists were the real savages, and the Africans were the ones who were being taken advantage of. Conrad’s story effectively painted the picture of the depravity of racism, and his characters were the tool he used to communicate the message.

Works Cited

Bloom, H. (2008). Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad, New Edition. New York: Infobase Pub.
Conrad, J., & Armstrong, P. B. (2006). Heart of darkness: Authoritative text, backgrounds and contexts, criticism. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Conrad, J., & In Dean, L. F. (1960). Heart of darkness: Backgrounds and criticisms. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.
Fothergill, A. (1989). Heart of darkness. Milton Keynes [England: Open University Press.
Fothergill, A. (1989). Heart of darkness. Milton Keynes [England: Open University Press.
Swisher, C. (1999). Readings on Heart of darkness. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

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