An Image of Africa

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An Image of Africa

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad has been depicted as “among the half-dozen greatest short novels in the English language.” [pg.1] Chinua Achebe believes otherwise. In Chinua Achebe’s An Image of Africa: Racism is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness he simply states that, “Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist” [pg.5]

Achebe argues that the racist observed in the Heart of Darkness is expressed due to the western psychology or as Achebe states “desire,” this being to show Africa as an antithesis to Europe. He first states Conrad as “one of the great stylists of modern fiction.” [pg.1] He praises Conrad’s talents in writing but believes Conrad’s obvious racism has not been addressed. He later describes in more detail that Conrad’s “methods amount to no more than a steady, ponderous, fake-ritualistic repetition of two antithetical sentences.”

Allow me to elaborate by stating some of Achebe’s arguments and my critiques. Achebe first points on Conrad’s “adjectival insistence upon inexpressible and incomprehensible mystery.” He states that many of Conrad’s critics simply see this as a stylistic flaw. Achebe believes that Conrad’s choose “the role of purveyor of comforting myths,” this being, according to Achebe, to guarantee him not to be in conflict with the “psychological predisposition of the reader.” [pg.2]

He first moves to analyzing Conrad’s distinction of the two rivers in the novel, but later moved to a more important topic, the “racism” towards blacks in the novel. He argues that their lack of speech is viewed as “dehumanized.” Achebe believes that Conrad views dialect as being a downgrade. This relation to Conrad’s “withholding of language from his rudimentary souls.” [pg.7] His first claim is of the dis...

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...ation of Central Africa.” [pg.6] Achebe states that Conrad’s image of Africa is not of his own, but of the Western imagination and that Conrad is simply showing the norm.

Achebe’s main point is as much of Joseph Conrad’s racism but more of Western society’s need for change. We need to look beyond the stereotypical image that which the West holds “to its heart.”[pg.8] We must look in today’s society, today’s media and books read in schools. We must realize that “offering bribes to the West in return for its good opinion of Africa” [pg.9] is preposterous. He sees now as the time for change. He doesn’t but blame of Conrad but on western society. “The victims of racist slander who for centuries have had to live with the inhumanity it makes them heir to have always known better than any casual visitor even when he comes loaded with the gifts of a Conrad.”[pg.9]

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