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Conrad's Heart of Darkness is Not a Racist Work

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Conrad's Heart of Darkness is Not a Racist Work

Since the publication of Heart of Darkness in 1899, the text has invited both praise and criticism. While some have claimed it is a work ahead of it’s time in it’s criticism of European colonialist practices, others have criticized the text in it’s portrayal of the native African’s. Achebe, Singh, and Sarvan are just a few to name, and although their criticisms differ, they have labeled many aspects of Conrad’s work racist. Conrad certainly was ahead of his time, as his work criticized the colonialism practices by the Europeans by both making readers aware of the issues, and moving the readership to empathize with the natives. The work therefore cannot be seen as racist, however it is a ‘text of it’s time’ (Conrad expresses a dominant view through Marlow ) in the social classification, with the black natives essentially being the ‘other’, seen through the portrayal of the native Africans.

The racial construction of the natives in Heart of Darkness is one of which the dominant society would have conformed to. Conrad constantly referred to the natives, in his book, as black savages, niggers, brutes, and "them", displaying perhaps ignorance toward the African history and racism towards the African people, Conrad wrote, " Black figures strolled out listlessly... the beaten nigger groaned somewhere" (Conrad 28). "They passed me with six inches, without a glance, with the complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages" (Conrad 19). The language expressed was common in the context of it’s publication, and it may be reflective of the greater society’s ignorance to the native African’s, with Marlow too, being constructed as a product of his society, therefore his views and opin...

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...the character of Marlow who is a product of his time. Although Achebe, among many others may be correct in saying that Conrad portrays the natives as the ‘other’, it’s the manifestation of Conrad, and the society of the time which leads to this portrayal.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua [An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.]

Heart of Darkness. By Joseph Conrad 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical 1988.

Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical, 1988.

Sarvan, C. P. [Racism and the Heart of Darkness.] Heart of Darkness. By Joseph Conrad 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical 1988.

Singh, Frances B. [The Colonialistic Bias of Heart of Darkness.] Heart of Darkness. By Joseph Conrad 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical 1988.
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