Although, words such as the n-word and relatively vulgar descriptions are utilized throughout the novel, that does not mean they are there simply to belittle the Africans. A leader in the racist side of this campaign is Chinua Achebe who strongly believes that Joseph Conrad’s purpose for this novel was to express his racist views. On the other side, is Caryl Phillips who interviewed Achebe and questioned his ideas. In an interview between two, Achebe said, “ ‘Conrad didn’t like black people. Great artists manage to be bigger than their times. In the case of Conrad you can actually show that there were people at the same time of him, and before him, who were not racists with regard to African’ ” (Phillips 5). In this statement, Achebe is suggesting that Conrad had no right to write the way he did because there were people at the time that were not racist, so why should he be? This, however, is false because Conrad did not write this novel being racist, but instead being part of his time. During the end of the nineteenth-century and beginning of the twentieth, the general consensus of the European population would have, what we now would believe, to be negative views on others that were not them. Although we see them as negative now, that is not how it was seen in the that time period. For instance, the narrator says, “Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were king” (Conrad 41). Clearly, Europeans had an entirely different view on the world outside of their country. That is not their fault and Conrad was a part this society. He simply wrote with the views and understandings of the world around that his culture had at that
This can be shown through the way that Marlow describes some of the Africans he comes across on his journey though the Belgian Congo. The following line shows how Marlow described one of the Africans, “Their headman, a young, broad-chested, severely draped in dark-blue fringed cloths, with a fierce nostril and his hair all done up artfully in oily ringlets, stood near me” (Conrad 330). Some feel this shows how Conrad is racist because he writes such an in-depth description of how the African looks different than someone he is used to seeing. It can be thought that Conrad thinks the way he looks is weird, but in truth he writes this description because he does not yet fully understand the African culture, not many people of his time did understand it yet. Conrad and Marlow understand the concept of them both being man and having the same physical and mental abilities, but they are just still trying to figure out how they live, dress, act and many other things. All Conrad wanted to do was help the lives of the
There have been many critics, predominantly Chinua Achebe, that have cast a cloak of racism upon the back of Joseph Conrad. Those authors base these allegations upon the novel Heart of Darkness, calling it a vile and most ungodly novel that only seeks to set the black race as a footstool of the white race. However, one must realize that there is a much deeper meaning to the novel than that of blatant racism. It is, in fact, a connection with the past that shows both the mindset, as well as the ignorance, of those who colonized Africa in the late nineteenth century.
Of course, this book is about the darkness of imperialism. There is bound to be some derogatory words said about the country and people being colonized. In the story, we can definitely tell the neither Conrad nor Marlow think highly of Africa. We see Marlow describing the African with animalistic descriptions. He says, “while I stood horror struck, on of these creatures rose…and went off on all fours…and after a time let his woolly he ad fall” (**). This quote shows me the Marlow saw them like animals. By relating a person to an animal, you take away the human being in them. In the book Marlow also says, “Sad, but true. And these chaps, too, had no ear they reason for any kind of scruple” (**). All Europeans, including Marlow, think that the cannibal or the African have no real reason to cause a problem. They think that their thought is not more important than them. It is our brain the separates people from animal, so when I think someone’s oppinons or thoughts aren’t important I am really treating unlike a person but more like an animal. These quotes are a proof of the dehumanization methods Conrad uses towards the Africans.
He states in his essay about the novella and racism that, “Conrad makes it clear that Kurtz’s corruption comes not from Africans but from Europe and from Kurtz himself” (pg.371). Clearly the savagery is originating from Europe, the corruption, and racism of imperialism is creating the savages we come to see in the novel. They are the “utter savagery” (pg.6) felt and surrounding Kurtz or anyone who believed it was okay to go into the Congo without actually helping the native people. Although Hunt later says that, “Conrad continues to place them in the category of “savages” and “barbarian””(pg.371), he proves that Conrad did have respect for the natives and praised them. It was just that in that era speaking with racist wording or having racist thoughts was a social norm, therefore when writing the novel that came into play. Hawkins never intended to say Conrad was a racist or that he believed that the natives were the savages, he was proving the point that that era had racist social norms that could lead to that misinterpretation. Therefore, Hunt would agree that the passage on page six is clear vague description of the whites who were the savages for their imperialistic, brutal, and careless
Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness has been the cause of racial arguments debating whether it should be read nowadays. The way Conrad describes African Americans troubles several critics, Achebe in particular. Achebe disagrees with Conrad’s novel so much because in it Conrad dehumanizes African and Achebe won’t let anyone lower his humanity.
It is hard to find a more profound description of the colonialist ideal of the 19th century, than how it is illustrated in Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. The story revolves around Marlowe, a steamboat captain in Belgian Congo, who is assigned to find Kurtz, an ivory trader, who has distanced himself from the rest of the trading company and gone into the deeper parts of Africa.
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...
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
I find no elements of racism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I will admit that I began reading this with a little hesitation based on the fact that I do not like to read about human cruelty. However, after reading the story, I did not feel any negative feelings toward the story or author.