In “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”, Chinua Achebe says that “it is the desire¬—one might indeed say the need—in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe” (337). Indeed it is wise for Achebe to make this claim while discussing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a short novel that presents the relationship between Europe and Africa as an entirely one-sided narrative which denies the African people their right to personage. For a majority of the novel, Marlow’s narration of a story goes so above and beyond telling one narrative, that it works toward preventing the African people from developing a voice of their own. Edward Said, in Culture and Imperialism, provides perhaps the most efficient explanation as to how the narrative that Marlow tells in the novel works against the African people: As one critic has suggested, nations themselves are narrations. The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them. (xiii) Marlow possesses the power to narrate, and therefore the power to block the African people from possessing their own voice. Achebe is right in saying that Marlow’s depiction of Africa “projects the image of Africa as ‘the other world,’ the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization” (338). However, beyond preventing a narrative from happen through the telling his own, Marlow performs a narrative that works toward creating a separation between “us”, the Europeans, and “them”, the Africans (xiii). His narrative, for the benefit of European identity, denies the African people any voice at all in the affairs between the two continents. Therefore, Marl... ... middle of paper ... ...tz has been aligned with by his confrontation of the darkness, the same savagery that ultimately consumes him, finds it’s only voice in his last words: “The horror! The horror!”, but regardless, Marlow cannot allow them to become a part of the final narrative. He knows better than to allow the voice of a savage, which Kurtz became through becoming so engulfed in the darkness, have a voice in his narrative. Once again, the narrative denies the Africans, even in the voice of a European man, ever from having a voice in a narrative that primarily takes place on their territory. Marlow, as a man of Europe, appears to make the decision as to whether or not tell the intended Kurtz last words, but he knows that he could not since they would be a voice of the Congo. In conclusion, Marlow’s narrative is the narrative of the European city which exploits the African colony.
The story Marlow shares with the other men, is a story of reflection. It is a mirror, like most experiences are. Experiences in our lives that teach us and reveal something in our lives that had to be fixed. In this case Marlow (or Conrad) uses Africa as the mirror into the hearts of early Europeans that wished to colonize and only help profit the "less unfortunate". What was it exactly that this unchartered land had in store for Marlow?
The first narrator and Marlow supply contradicting beliefs on the colonization of Africa. The first narrator believed that it was England's duty to save Africa from their own savage ways, like the Romans did to England many year before. When the Romans first went to England it was a vast and wilderness to them, as Africa was to England. He thought that colonialism would assist the African people to find a purpose and aid the country to prosper, as England
Conrad begins his novel by confirming the stereotypical view of Africans, but then turning the public’s perception of them upside down. As Marlow travels down to the Congo in the French steamer, he sees a band of Africans rowing a boat along the shore of Africa. The men sang, shouted, and moved with a “wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast” (11). Marlow watches these men with comfort, confirming his own beliefs and the European’s beliefs that Africans were savage and strong. Afterwards, Marlow arrives at the Congo and sees six black men trudging like starved prisoners; “they were dying slowly… nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation” (14). The chain gang also supports the preconceptions of an African. Before Marlow leaves for the Congo, he visits his aunt who praises him as a worker who will help the poor, starving savages of Africa. The image of the blacks, who were all connected together with a ch...
In the present era of decolonization, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness presents one of fictions strongest accounts of British imperialism. Conrad’s attitude towards imperialism and race has been the subject of much literary and historical debate. Many literary critics view Conrad as accepting blindly the arrogant attitude of the white male European and condemn Conrad to be a racist and imperialists. The other side vehemently defends Conrad, perceiving the novel to be an attack on imperialism and the colonial experience. Understanding the two viewpoints side by side provides a unique understanding that leads to a commonality that both share; the novel simply presents a criticism of colonialists in Africa. The novel merely portrays a fictional account of British imperialism in the African jungle, where fiction offers maximum entertainment it lacks in focus. The novel is not a critique of European colonialism and imperialism, but rather a presentation of colonialism and the theme of darkness throughout the novel sheds a negative light on the selfishness of humanity and the system that was taking advantage of the native peoples. In Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, Conrad presents a criticism of British imperial colonization not for the purpose of taking sides, but with aims of bettering the system that was in place during Conrad’s experience in the African Congo. Conrad uses the character of Marlow and his original justification of imperialism so long as it was efficient and unselfish that was later transformed when the reality of colonialism displayed the selfishness of man, to show that colonialism throughout history displaces the needs of the mother country over the colonized peoples and is thus always selfish.
This quote from page 70 points out the futility of the European’s presence in Africa. This is caused by the Europeans taking away from the people of different races and “flatter noses.” These people journey to other parts of the world, then take their resources and possessions, and ultimately claim it as their own. The Europeans go to other countries looking for easier routes, resources, and trade. However, when they stop on foreign lands, they change the way of life for the native population. They bring disease, customs, religion, et cetera, which is then forced onto the natives. This quote highlights the meaningless presence of Europeans in Africa.
"I don't want to bother you much with what happened to me personally,' [Conrad] began, showing in this remark the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would most like to hear" (Conrad, 9). Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's best-known work, has been examined on many bases more than I can possibly list here, but including imperialism, colonialism, and racism. I would reason that all bases of analysis are perfectly acceptable through which to critique Conrad's novella, or any piece of writing. I would reason this, were some of these bases mainly, racism not taken to an extreme level. In arguing racism, many critics seem to take Heart of Darkness as Conrad's unwavering view on Africa, Africans, life, or whatever else one may please to take it as. I, therefore, propose that Heart of Darkness be taken for what it truly is: a work of fiction set in late 19th century Europe and Africa.
In the book Heart of Darkness, a sailor named Marlow describes his past journey thought the Congo during the Industrial Era, focusing especially on how the natives were treated by the Europeans. Joseph Conrad portrays Marlow’s first experience as dreadful and appalling through dismal diction and detail, and syntax. This demonstrates how people will often turn away from their respectable intentions to malevolent morals.
In Kevin Gaines’ book, American Africans in Ghana, Gaines combines both African and African American history together unlike others have done in the past. Gaines’ book gives his audience insight on the relationship that many prominent African Americans in the Mid-nineteenth century had with Africa. Gaines tackles many issues that were prevalent during this time period, for instance, he tackles race, class, citizenship, independence and freedom. Gaines does this to change the narrative that existed about Africa. Many Black Nationalist, had romanticized Africa to be this place that once had thriving empires but lost everything due to colonization, and westernized blacks needed to go to Africa to help liberate it. Gaines dispels these myths, and
As Marlow travels farther and farther into the Congo, he finds that the hypocrisy of his fellow Europeans is far greater than he first imagined. His fellow white men butcher elephants and Africans in order to get their precious ivory, which gives them all a massive economic boost. They justify their corrupt actions as moral by dehumanizing the Africans that they kill and claim that they are merely primitive versions of white people. There is no compassion or sense of regret in the imperialists, despite their preaching of Christianity's teachings. In fact, money and power is placed at such a higher priority than morals, that "You would think they were praying to it" (Conrad 89) as if it was a god. The Europeans describe what they do as a form of "trade," and that their treatment of native Africans is part of a benevolent project of "civilization," but the truth is that they take what they want through extreme cruelty, oppr...
At the time, the Europeans often referred to Africa as the ‘Dark Continent’. This is the main setting of Marlow’s story and his destination is the Congo, which is the heart of Africa. An image of darkness is used to portray this whole setting. As Marlow begins to narrate, one of the first descriptions of Africa that he gives is of the dark shores. This gives the passengers of the Nellie, as well as the reader, their initial image of the Dark Continent.
The main character of the story, Marlow, is a thirty-two year old English seaman who has been traveling all his life. All he really wants is to find some shred of goodness in the European domination of Africa. He finds his thoughts completely consumed by one man named Kurtz. Kurtz is a man in charge of the most successful ivory business in the Congo. He is the focus in the novel, in that he is the one whom the other characters react to.
In “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," Achebe takes notes the ways that Conrad degrades Africans by reducing their religious practices to misconception, belittling their complex geography to just a single mass of jungle, telling them to remain in their place, and taking away their capability of speaking. Achebe criticizes Joseph Conrad for his racist stereotypes towards the people of Africa. Achebe also sensibly labels these stereotypes and shows that Africa is in fact a rich land full of intelligent people who are, in fact, very human.
At the beginning of the novel, Marlow is traveling the jungle and the many scenes of life can be seen. Africa has seems to be taken over by many travelers which makes one wonder what is there ulterior motive? Africa is a third world country, which makes it easy for someone to come in and talk on their soapbox. It is very easy to tell that these men are not the biggest fans of colored people, so it is plausible that they have come to instill a sense of imperialism. As Marlow passes through the waters of the Congo it is easily visible the trouble of the natives. “Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth half coming out, half effaced with the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair.” (20) Show that the holding of these colonies has started. The soldiers have come in and taken the inhabitants and are destroying them and taking from them the one thing they deserve over everything, life. The imperialists seem to not care about the Africans and are just there for their land.
Achebe argues that the racist observed in the Heart of Darkness is expressed due to the western psychology or as Achebe states “desire,” this being to show Africa as an antithesis to Europe. He first states Conrad as “one of the great stylists of modern fiction.” [pg.1] He praises Conrad’s talents in writing but believes Conrad’s obvious racism has not been addressed. He later describes in more detail that Conrad’s “methods amount to no more than a steady, ponderous, fake-ritualistic repetition of two antithetical sentences.”
The story starts out with a man re-telling the story of Charles Marlow and his trip to Africa. Africa at the time is a place where many European countries staked out land and riches while trying