The Heart of Darkness, a complex text was written by Joseph Conrad around the 19th century, when Europeans were colonizing Africa for wealth and power and were attempting to spread their culture and religion in Africa. It was also a period in which women were not allowed to participate in worldly affairs. Therefore, the text deals with issues such as racism, European imperialism, and misogyny. This essay will look at the different themes in the novel and argue whether or not The Heart of Darkness is a work of art.
Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness uses character development and character analysis to really tell the story of European colonization. Within Conrad's characters one can find both racist and colonialist views, and it is the opinion, and the interpretation of the reader which decides what Conrad is really trying to say in his work.
There have been many critics, predominantly Chinua Achebe, that have cast a cloak of racism upon the back of Joseph Conrad. Those authors base these allegations upon the novel Heart of Darkness, calling it a vile and most ungodly novel that only seeks to set the black race as a footstool of the white race. However, one must realize that there is a much deeper meaning to the novel than that of blatant racism. It is, in fact, a connection with the past that shows both the mindset, as well as the ignorance, of those who colonized Africa in the late nineteenth century.
Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.” Massachusetts Review. W.M. Norton and Co. n.d. Web. 9 Dec.2010. .
Heart of Darkness, a novella written by Joseph Conrad, explores the growth of colonialism in Africa, narrated by a man, named Marlow, telling his life experiences to his crewmates. Over the course of Heart of Darkness, certain aspects of colonialism and those involved are revealed in a darker form than usual. Conrad provides an anti-colonialism novel rich with hidden explanations as to why. Heart of Darkness is an anti-colonialism novel, because
Colonialism and the Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, is a work that strongly attacks colonialism and its affects not only upon the native population but also upon the colonizers invading the land. Conrad experienced being colonized as a young boy in a Poland under Russian occupation. He also witnessed the affects of colonialism upon a colonizer while he commanded a river steamer in the Dutch Congo. He relays these experiences through the eyes of his character Marlow who is a riverboat captain as well. The attacks upon colonialism come in three classes: directly, ironically, and metaphorically.
Heart of Darkness. That title rings with agony, loneliness, and the sense of evil. The words produce an image of a black heart entangled with unbreakable vines. To have a heart that is figuratively black and bounded to the ties of evil is a bitter and deathly symbol. Who could possibly have that heart? Joseph Conrad, for example, was a man with a heart of darkness. His life reeked with self deception and inner conflicts. Conrad’s book, Heart of Darkness is based upon imperialism and racism. Racism is cleverly hidden within the text, but imperialism is innocently depicted as the civilization of the Congolese people. Conrad’s writing can be interpreted two different ways. One approach is the reader might interpret his writing as an attack on the Europeans as the imperialists trying to help the Congolese, but the African people refuse their help. In contrast, the other approach might be that they feel sympathetic to the Congolese people. They see the Europeans has cruel and heartless. If we seek to understand the racism and the imperialism of that day and age, we can see racism in between the lines. I agree with many of Conrad’s critics when they say that he is completely racist, however I tend to see that no matter what race we are we all have a seed of darkness inside our hearts. Why are we infected with his powerful bug of a race overpowering any minority that is inferior to us due to any significant difference? In the case of Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness, it seems like Congolese people are nothing more than disposable and insignificant.
In Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, the interpretation of pre-colonial times is interesting in a way that supersedes other books I’ve read because it’s very honest with how the world worked it that era. The central aim which the shipmates in Heart of Darkness are pursuing is the expansion of their home countries’ empires. Yet many people are hurt in this enterprise, and it’s not only the colonized territories that are impacted negatively by imperialist Europe. Europe’s explorers that go to the Congo are constantly dying of sickness. Compare the ways in which the consequences of imperialism affect the different groups of people in the book, the more one can understand about characters’ actions.
In Europe, where people follow rules and regulations, these men are nothing, but in the jungle they are able to shine.However in the article, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” Chinua Achebe describes the novella, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, as being racist.He supports this idea with examples from the text and with criticisms of the imagery used throughout the work. Achebe claims that by portraying Africa as “the other world and the antithesis of Europe,” Conrad is seeking to project Africa as the opposite of Europe and therefore,
King Leopold II of Belgium is known for being one of the most brutal racists in history. His inhumane treatment of Africans in the Congo was revealed in photographs that surfaced and that were taken to emphasize his cruel behavior over the Africans in the Congo. His motive for this inhumanity was pure greed. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, although does not embody the vicious behavior of King Leopold II, contributes to the racism of that period in other ways. Because of this, the novel can be interpreted in different ways from a racism standpoint. In my opinion, I both agree and disagree with Chinua Achebe’s statements concerning Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and feel that it can be viewed in some ways as both racist or not racist.