Novels such as Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Achebe's Things Fall Apart both present the reader with different points of view on colonialism in Africa, challenging an active reader to base his or her own conclusions based on the texts. Conrad presents the European perspective on colonialism while Achebe offers the native African point of view; each author provides his readers radically different views on the same issue. Likewise, the novel White Teeth also presents different perspectives on racial issues. Learning how to be an active reader definitely provides insight to every aspect of life thus allowing the reader to formulate educated conclusions and decisions. The skills required being an active reader are also required of an active citizen in the real world. Whether in literature or the real world, one point of view is never fully reliable. Because points of view radically change depending upon racial background, upbringing, and cultural influences, readers of texts as well as members of society today must be active readers and thinkers in order to make conclusions for themselves.
The first perspective presented addresses the European view of Colonialism and native Africans. We first encounter Europe’s general view of Africans early in Conrad’s novel. Before beginning a trek to Africa, Marlow visits his aunt who tells her nephew that she hopes he will help aid in “weaning those ignorant millions of their horrid ways” (Conrad 786). Even though Marlow’s aunt has never even been to Africa to see the Native Africans first hand, she has a preconceived notion that Africans are ignorant savages. This notion is dominant among Europeans and is seemingly based solely on myths and stories told by others who have never even been to ...
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...texts challenge and compel an active to draw his or her own conclusion based on these texts and personally resolve how to deal with the issue of racism still present in the real world today. Learning how to be an active reader definitely provides insight to every aspect of life thus allowing the reader to formulate educated conclusions and decisions. Without these skills, most students would only search out one perspective and forego opposing knowledge. As a result, those readers would lack the ability to make educated judgments.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Portsmouth: African Writers Series, 2000. Print.
Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” Heart of Darkness: Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Paul B.
Armstrong. Fourth ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. Print.
Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. New York: Vintage International, 2000. Print.
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Colonialism and imperialism was at its peak during the late nineteenth century. During this time, the African continent was partitioned by different European nations. In Heart of Darkness, author Joseph Conrad, explores this nature of colonial imperialism in African country, Congo. European nations were going to these African countries to “civilize” the natives of that continent. The European nations viewed the people of Congo as “savages.” “We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet” (Conrad). This description from Conrad gives us the impression that the people of Congo were “prehistoric” and did not develop a sense of civilization. However, the Europeans were in Africa for the exploitation of resources. To the Europeans in Congo, “progress” meant the exploitation of the natives. Through the means of cruelty and treachery and violence, the Europeans took advantage of the innocent natives. Violence instilled fear in the natives and ...
Darkness. It pervades every corner of this world, casting literal and metaphorical shadow over everything. Creeping in the hearts of humans, drifting across the night sky, under the bed, darkness is a terrifying, yet quintessential concept in our human mentality. And, as such, it presents itself in cultures and stories around the world to explain the unknown and the terrifying. Through the presentation of the struggle with internal and external “darkness,” both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart draw upon contrasting viewpoints and cultures, as well as an ironic play of “darkness” between the Europeans and the Africans, to construe the tragedy unfolding in Colonial Africa.
In the present era of decolonization, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness presents one of fictions strongest accounts of British imperialism. Conrad’s attitude towards imperialism and race has been the subject of much literary and historical debate. Many literary critics view Conrad as accepting blindly the arrogant attitude of the white male European and condemn Conrad to be a racist and imperialists. The other side vehemently defends Conrad, perceiving the novel to be an attack on imperialism and the colonial experience. Understanding the two viewpoints side by side provides a unique understanding that leads to a commonality that both share; the novel simply presents a criticism of colonialists in Africa. The novel merely portrays a fictional account of British imperialism in the African jungle, where fiction offers maximum entertainment it lacks in focus. The novel is not a critique of European colonialism and imperialism, but rather a presentation of colonialism and the theme of darkness throughout the novel sheds a negative light on the selfishness of humanity and the system that was taking advantage of the native peoples. In Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, Conrad presents a criticism of British imperial colonization not for the purpose of taking sides, but with aims of bettering the system that was in place during Conrad’s experience in the African Congo. Conrad uses the character of Marlow and his original justification of imperialism so long as it was efficient and unselfish that was later transformed when the reality of colonialism displayed the selfishness of man, to show that colonialism throughout history displaces the needs of the mother country over the colonized peoples and is thus always selfish.
Colonial presence in the continent of Africa was minimal before 1878. However, the scramble for territory by European powers saw nearly the entire consumption of Africa by 1910. The speed of this occupation needed an alignment of specific factors to encourage, draw, and control conflict for its success in such a short amount of time. Advances in technology and the financial benefits resulting from trade in other colonial territories in the new world were assuredly two of the factors that went into the idea of colonizing Africa. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness typifies the exploitation of resources and management of labour by European imperial powers in late 19th century Africa by using the tools of economic incentive and technological
... turmoil of feelings that cannot co-exist in harmony. Marlow's inablity to create a distinction between colors “ so dark-green as to be almost black” is a manifestation of his consideration for the continent. Furthermore, the following sentence compares the deep blue of the sea as “blurred by a creeping mist”, again leaving Africa an uninteresting and characterless ground. According to his syntax, Conrad considers the continent a cluster of nothingness. With colors that all merge together to create “black” he gives it a weary feel. An entity which stands alone, and which will never be understood by Europen imperialists. With such a closely compacted prose, with such contradictory elements the reader has a hard time creating an idea of Africa. Marlows struggle to physically and mentally penetrate it is a demonstration of the unclarity the author posseses of Africa.
Conrad begins his novel by confirming the stereotypical view of Africans, but then turning the public’s perception of them upside down. As Marlow travels down to the Congo in the French steamer, he sees a band of Africans rowing a boat along the shore of Africa. The men sang, shouted, and moved with a “wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast” (11). Marlow watches these men with comfort, confirming his own beliefs and the European’s beliefs that Africans were savage and strong. Afterwards, Marlow arrives at the Congo and sees six black men trudging like starved prisoners; “they were dying slowly… nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation” (14). The chain gang also supports the preconceptions of an African. Before Marlow leaves for the Congo, he visits his aunt who praises him as a worker who will help the poor, starving savages of Africa. The image of the blacks, who were all connected together with a ch...
In conclusion, Heart of Darkness de-humanizes Africans, denies their language and culture and under estimates them by calling them with humiliating names. Heart of Darkness reveals the absolute hypocrisy of Europe. In Europe, colonizing Africa was necessary because it would not only bring wealth to Europe but it would also civilize and educate the “savage” African natives. It shows that the European colonizers used the high ideals of colonization as a cover to allow them to collect whatever wealth they could from Africa. Unlike most novels, Heart of Darkness focus on the evils of colonialism, it also pays attention to the damage that colonization does to the souls of the white colonizers than it does to the black natives.
In fact Conrad referees to the Africans as uncivilized people in some points in the novel, but he also proves that they are primitive people. For example, when one of the natives says to Marlow pointing to a man "catch 'im , Give 'im to us" so that he could "eat 'im" and he get surprised when he knows that Europeans kill thousands of people without eating them and asked Marlow "then why do they kill 'im". Marlow distances himself from the Europeans who are pretending to be civilized and kill thousands of innocents for the sake of killing while the natives kill people for their basic
In “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, Chinua Achebe says that “it is the desire¬—one might indeed say the need—in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe” (337). Indeed it is wise for Achebe to make this claim while discussing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a short novel that presents the relationship between Europe and Africa as an entirely one-sided narrative which denies the African people their right to personage. For a majority of the novel, Marlow’s narration of a story goes so above and beyond telling one narrative, that it works toward preventing the African people from developing a voice of their own. Edward Said, in Culture and Imperialism, provides perhaps the most efficient explanation as to how the narrative that Marlow tells in the novel works against the African people:
Conrad’s main character Marlow is the narrator for most of the story in Heart of Darkness. He is presented as a well-intentioned person, and along his travels he is shocked by the cruelties that he sees inflicted on the native people. Though he is seemingly benevolent and kindly, Marlow shows the racism and ignorance of Conrad and in fact of the majority of white people in his era, in a more subtle way. Marlow uses words to describe the blacks that, though generally accepted in his time, were slanderous and crude. He recalls that some of the first natives he saw in the Congo looked at him “with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages” (80; part 1). Marlow casually refers to the Africans with the most offensive of language: “Strings of dusty niggers arrived and departed…” (83; part 1). To Marlow, and thus to Conrad, the Africans are savages, dogs, devils, and criminals. Even the stories that Conrad creates for Marlow to narrate are twisted and false. The natives that Marlow deals with in the book are described as cannibals, and they are even given dialogue that affirms th...
Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 1783-1794.
“ The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” (Conrad 65) So stated Marlow as though this was his justification for ravaging the Congo in his search for ivory. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness shows the disparity between the European ideal of civilization and the reality of it as is evidenced by the domination, torture, exploitation and dehumanization of the African population. Heart of Darkness is indicative of the evil and greed in humanity as personified by Kurtz and Marlow.
In the opening of his novel, Heart of Darkness, Conrad, through Marlow, establishes his thoughts on colonialism. He says that conquerors only use brute force, "nothing to boast of" because it arises, by accident, from another's weakness. Marlow compares his subsequent tale of colonialism with that of the Roman colonization of Northern Europe and the fascination associated with such an endeavor. However, Marlow challenges this viewpoint by painting a heinous picture of the horrors of colonialist ventures as we delve deeper into the recesses of the novel. Here we find that Marlow sees colonization as "robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind - as it is very proper for those who tackle darkness." Further, he sees such conquests as taking land and materials away from those people who "have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses." As he understands it, colonization is only successful if there lays within it a "devotion to efficiency" and a creation of civilization, not exploitation (Conrad, 4). In the novel, as seen through the eyes of his narrator Marlow, Conrad offers a frank critique of European imperial colonialism be alluding to the poignant differences between black and white and dark and light.
Marlow's idea that the English are capable of competently approaching imperialism has no supportive evidence. In any case, the savage and inefficient methods of the Belgians prove that the idealistic claims of European imperialism are far from true. In this, it is likely that Conrad's experience in the Congo changed his outlook on imperialism, just as it did Marlow.