Colonialism and Imperialism - The White Male and the Other in Heart of Darkness

analytical Essay
1050 words
1050 words

The European, White Male vs. the Other in Heart of Darkness The novella Heart of Darkness has, since it's publication in 1899, caused much controversy and invited much criticism. While some have hailed it's author, Joseph Conrad as producing a work ahead of it's time in it's treatment and criticism of colonialist practices in the Congo, others, most notably Chinua Achebe, have criticized it for it's racist and sexist construction of cultural identity. Heart of Darkness can therefore be described as a text of it's time, as the cultural identity of the dominant society, that is, the European male is constructed in opposition to "the other", "the other" in Heart of Darkness being defined as black and/or female. Notions of cultural identity are largely constructed through language and setting and are essential to the reader's understanding of the text. While many characters are critiqued or criticized by Conrad for their exploitation of Africa and it's inhabitants, they remain the dominant and superior race, both according to Conrad, and his primary narrator Charlie Marlow. The African characters are not only constructed as "other", but also as inferior and to an extent subhuman. This is evident through their lack of language or voice throughout the text. Africans are denied language, and are instead granted "grunting" noises and a "violent babble of mouth sounds" relegating them to an inferior status. Only on two occasions are the natives given language and expression by the author. Firstly, when cannibalism is seen to overcome them, and one of then when asked what they will do with the body of one of the dead crew, replies "Eat 'im". The second occasion is when the enigmatic figure of Kurtz... ... middle of paper ... ...constructing women as the "other", not being able to cope with the truth and facts of life, Conrad asserts the superiority and dominance of the white male. In Heart of Darkness, cultural identity and the dominance of the European, white male is constructed and asserted through the constructions of the "other", that is the African natives and females, largely through language and setting. Thus, while claims of Conrad's forwardness in producing a text that critiques colonialism may be valid, Heart of Darkness is ultimately a product of it's time and therefore confirms the contextual notions of difference. Bibliography Conrad, J. Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin Group. 1995. Achebe, C. An image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness 1975. Sarvan, C.F. Racism and Heart of Darkness 1982.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the novella heart of darkness has been criticized for its racist and sexist construction of cultural identity. the european male is constructed in opposition to "the other".
  • Analyzes how conrad and his primary narrator, charlie marlow, critique african characters for their exploitation of africa and its inhabitants, but they remain the dominant and superior race.
  • Analyzes how conrad constructs africans as inferior to europeans through his refusal to grant them the power of language and speech.
  • Analyzes how conrad marginalizes and degrades african characters and race through the denial of language and human form.
  • Analyzes how the patriarchal representation of women in heart of darkness confirms the superiority of the white male.
  • Analyzes how marlow, and conrad, depict the madonna as living in a dream world. the aunt and the intended represent the other half of the polarization of women.
  • Analyzes how conrad's "heart of darkness" is a product of its time and confirms the contextual notions of difference.
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