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Imperialism in the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Humans, being a visually oriented species, lack objectivity in their actions and observations; two people could interpret any particular incident in countless ways. Joseph Conrad’s attitude towards imperialism in Heart of Darkness ignited a flame of controversy. Cedric Watts and Chinua Achebe, two prominent writers, took different sides on this seemingly endless debate; a debate originating from the “darkness”. In Watts’s Indirect Methods Convey Conrad’s Views of Imperialism, Watts argues that Conrad is an artistic anti-imperialist, subliminally conveying the “corruption and hypocrisy of imperialism” (Watts, p.1). Achebe interpreted Conrad’s intentions in a completely opposite manner compared to Watts; Achebe’s critique of Conrad’s novella – Conrad’s Racism – revolved around the imperialistic aspects of Conrad’s personnel, and the imperialistic-byproducts that were notable in Conrad’s novella. Racism and the dehumanization of the African figure were two of those issue that aroused Achebe’s emotional ties to his “original” roots. Achebe’s attitude in his critique was that of great perplexity; solely driven by patriotic emotions and fear of belittlement, Achebe degraded the novella to a non-artistic work, in attempt to defend himself, rather than the Nigerians, who he supposedly represents. This, I believe, lessens the authenticity of Achebe, and puts Watts’s perspective on this controversial issue a few steps ahead. Conrad, from my perspective, courageously revealed the commonly misinterpreted – and usually hidden – ideology of imperialism in his novella, proving him an anti-imperialist thereof.

“The locus of the human mystery is perception of this world. From it proceeds every thought, every art.” (Marilynne Robinson). Heart of...

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...was able to alter the “frame of reference” (Achebe, p. 188) of the readers’ subjective reality, thus keeping their judgments out of the way. The seemingly quiet and benevolent ambience that Conrad was able to bring to existence in his novella was just a technique to avoid the judgments of the imperialists.

Conrad had a certain perspective on the world that was significantly different than that of his fellow imperialists, in the sense that he was able to defy the innate demon in him and dominate his own path. However, his rather “unique” perspective of life is not completely unique as previously thought. Instead, Conrad’s vision had some impurities in it, as a result of the culture he was born into. Throughout his story, Conrad was able to convey the drawbacks of imperialism and his sympathy towards the victims of imperialism in an artistic, indirect way.
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