Images of Africa in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart

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Images of Africa in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart

Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness portrays an image of Africa that is dark and inhuman. Not only does he describe the actual, physical continent of Africa as "so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness" (Conrad 94), as though the continent could neither breed nor support any true human life, but he also manages to depict Africans as though they are not worthy of the respect commonly due to the white man. At one point the main character, Marlow, describes one of the paths he follows: "Can't say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered as a permanent improvement" (48). Conrad's description of Africa and Africans served to misinform the Western world, and went uncontested for many years.

In 1958 Chinua Achebe published his first and most widely acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart. This work-commonly acknowledged as the single most well known African novel in the world-depicts an image of Africa that humanizes both the continent and the people. Achebe once said, "Reading Heart of Darkness . . . I realized that I was one of those savages jumping up and down on the beach. Once that kind of enlightenment comes to you, you realize that someone has to write a different story" (Gikandi 8-9); Achebe openly admits that he wrote Things Fall Apart because of the horrible characterization of Africans in many European works, especially Heart of Darkness. In many ways, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart can be seen as an Afrocentric rebuttal to the Eurocentric depi...

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Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Essays in Criticism. 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988. 251-262.

---. Things Fall Apart. Greenwich: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1959.

Boahen, A. Adu. African Perspectives on Colonialism. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

"Doctrines on Colonialism." The Government of Tibet in Exile. 3 May 2000.>.

Gikandi, Simon. "Chinua Achebe and the Invention of African Literature." Classics in Context: Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe. Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1996

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