Marlow’s Narrative Voice as a Rejection of the African People

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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 ... 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.

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