Racism in Heart of Darkness?

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"Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain"

John F. Kennedy

Achebe and Watts are two great writers, which argue over a very important point. Is Joseph Conrad racist? This question has led to the discussion; should his book, Heart of Darkness, be taken off of the schools reading list? This issue I shall address; yes and no, Joseph Conrad is racist. It depends on how you look at it. Should this book be removed from the reading list? Again it is how you look at it. It is my duty as President of this college to make sure that the students here get the Liberal Arts Education that they are paying for. The books that are taught in college are supposed to provoke thinking and allow the student to see a new perspective. The book will not be removed from the list but to whom and how it is taught shall be.

"And this also, has been one of the dark places of the earth." These are Marlow's first words in Heart of Darkness. This quote was spoken about the Thames River, the main river running through England and this suggests that the United Kingdom, along with England, was once like Africa a dark place full of mystery and "savages." Over time the U.K. over came, with the help of the Romans, its inner darkness and flourished to become an "enlightened" civilization. Africa is full well in its darkness at the end of the 19th century. The people of the U.K. see themselves as modern day Romans and go into Africa to conquer its darkness and to civilize the "savages." This is where the racism comes from, a civilization seeing itself as superior to another.

In order for us to determine if Joseph Conrad was racist or not, we have to take a look at the society that he lived in. Around the turn of the century England was at the height of its power and was spreading its influence every where. As England starting spreading its power, it felt the need to "civilize savages" mainly this meant the people of Africa. Since the people of England saw Africans as inferior of course it reflected in how they talked and acted towards them. This is what leads to Achebe's stance that Conrad is racist. An Image of Africa is Achebe describing why Conrad was racist. In this paper Achebe says that Africa is "set up" as a foil, opposite to Europe, by Conrad.
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