In his famous critical essay, “An Image of Africa” (1975), Chinua Achebe takes a strong stance against Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. He asserts that Conrad was a racist and his novella is a product of his racism. A following quote that is good to show Achebe opinion for Conrad is: The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. That this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work is due to the fact that white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked. (An Image of Africa, Achebe, 1975) Achebe comments on Conrad’s work as a hidden product of racism because criticisms for Heart of Darkness mask the racism and it is now the way we [critics and readers] see the novella.
Marlow contemplates... ... middle of paper ... .... This is showing the European notion of the belief of Africa to be a highly inferior land. Again, Joseph Conrad allows for a major juxtaposition which easily lets readers comprehend the struggle of Marlow to accept the savage natives as human like himself. Through the direct comparison of the white men as saviors of Africa, Joseph Conrad excludes the natives by presenting them as weak. With extremely deprecating language and poor representation, Joseph Conrad silences the native Africans in Heart of Darkness by glorifying the savagery and inferiority of the natives as compared to the whites.
Many believed it the curse given upon Noah’s son Ham for “looking upon his father’s nakedness” (p17). Each of these contrasting views on color needed to be used in this book. For no better reason in that it showed from an initial point that the English viewed the color of the Africans as a plague. Instead of excepting that Africans may in fact be different, the English consistently made attempts to explain the dif... ... middle of paper ... ...b in this section of clearly displaying the facts and supporting his arguments. Laws dealing with the intermixing of races and separate treatment also created a second class or lower standing of the African.
Unfortunately, in saying this, Achebe is missing the point. Africa is the darkness, on the outside, but it is an irony in that the Englishmen who go to Africa and are colonizing there are the ones who are dark and barbarous. They are greedy and have become dark, like the appearance of the Africans. Perhaps the "darkness" of the Congo ha... ... middle of paper ... ...ropean conquest, and the bloodthirsty remorselessness that the Europeans show towards the Africans However the fact still remains that Conrad's main message here appears to be 'who are we to judge'. This can be seen with his reference to the Romans.
In "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness ," Achebe accuses Conrad of racism as the essential "heart of darkness." Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality...it is not the differentness that worries Conrad but the lurking hint of kinship, of common ancestry. For the Thames too 'has been one of the dark places of the earth.' It conquered its darkness, of course, and is now in daylight and at peace. But if it were to visit its primordial relative, the Congo, it would run the terrible risk of hearing grotesque echoes of its own forgotten darkness, and falling victim to an avenging recrudescence of the mindless frenzy of the first beginnings.
While Collins does a succinct job of examining the economic and political factors that heightened colonization, he fails to hone in on the mental warfare that was an essential tool in creating African division and ultimately European conquest. Not only was the systematic dehumanization tactics crippling for the African society, but also, the system of racial hierarchy created the division essential for European success. The spillover effects of colonialism imparted detrimental affects on the African psyche, ultimately causing many, like Shanu, to, “become victims to the white man’s greed.”
Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Literary Work In the article "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness," Chinua Achebe criticizes Joseph Conrad for his racist stereotypes towards the people of Africa. He claims that Conrad broadcasted the "dominant image of Africa in the Western imagination" rather than portraying the continent in its true form (Achebe 13). Africans were portrayed in Conrad's novel as inhuman savages with no language other than sound and with no "other occupations besides merging into the evil forest or materializing out of it simply to plague Marlow" (Achebe 7). To Joseph Conrad, the Africans were not just characters in his story, but rather props. After reading Achebe’s famous essay and Conrad’s novella I’ve come to side with Achebe.
In his essay, Achebe states that “Heart of Darkness projects the likeness of Africa as “the other world”, the antithesis of Europe and thus of civilization, a place where a man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality”(Achebe 783). Readers are hit by the insensitivity and savage way in which European colonists advanced the tribal heritage they searched to “civilize". Chinua Achebe cites numerous points in the text where this concept is shown. Achebe also argues that the river Thames is mismatched to the river Congo, its “very antithesis” (3), where the activity in the innovative is centralized. Achebe argues that what is concerned about Conrad is not the definiteness, but the lurking hint of kinship, of widespread ancestry.
Achebe refers to him as a "thoroughgoing racist," and the notion is made that all reviews of Heart of Darkness are mistaken in their compassion toward the author and the "European mind." He also refers to Conrad's "problem with niggers" and "his inordinate love of that word itself." After attacking the credibility and sanity of Conrad, Achebe goes on to belittle Conrad's book. He calls the book "offensive" and "deplorable," stating that the book "parades prejudices and insults" while calling the "very humanity of black people into question." By now the essay has turned to anger and you can feel the author's passion to defend Africa through his powerful words and exclamations.
Furthermore, we must keep in mind that Conrad was a product of a rather racist period in history, and it seems unfair to penalize him for not being able to transcend his contemporaries in this respect. This novel, it seems, must be read in a symbolic manner. Objects and characters are not so simple as they seem. Achebe tells us: "Quite simply it is the desire... in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe's own state of spiritual grace will be manifest" (251-252). If Africa is a foil to Europe, as stated here, then perhaps Conrad only uses the continent of Africa symbolically, without regard to its people - as Achebe himself states, descriptions of Africans as anything more than vague limbs in the darkness are few and far between in the novel.