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Heart of Darkness

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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.

Conrad shows racism against Africans in many ways throughout his novel. “Black figures strolled about listlessly...steam ascended in the moonlight, the beaten nigger groaned somewhere (Conrad, 30).” The most clear and obvious instance of racism is the use of the word “nigger”. It is a word that is viewed as extremely negative and demeaning towards Africans by many. Conrad uses this word many times to address the Africans throughout his work. “Nigger” has come to be extremely frowned upon in cultures across the world and has come to be unacceptable to be used in people’s vocabulary for its derogatory meaning that it has come to have, originating from racism and prejudice against Africans in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

As Marlow, the main character of the novel, comes across Africans along his journey, his racism shows through his reflections on what he observes. When Conrad refers to Africans through his characters, it seems as if he views them as animals. “Mostly black and nake...

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...have grown to the powerhouse that it was. I am not condoning it and saying the treatment of blacks was ok, but Conrad’s novel is a work of its time, and always will be in history.

Achebe stated that Conrad’s work was “an offensive and deplorable book.” I believe this view of Heart of Darkness to be true through his inhumane depiction of blacks throughout his novel. Conrad followed in the footsteps of infamous racist in figures, King Leopold II in particular for his barbaric treatment of Africans in the Congo. Achebe also accused Conrad of being “a thoroughgoing racist,” which I do not agree with. While I do think that Conrad certainly was a racist, he did not take that racism to the extremity that others, such as King Leopold II, did. In Heart of Darkness, Conrad made it clear that he was a racist, but did not carry that racism out to the fullest extent possible.
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