Heart of Darkness: Racism is a Relative Term
Racism is a relative term. While many people argue that Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, contains the theme of racism, they tend to ignore the fact that this novel was written around the turn of the century. During this time period it was accepted practice to think of a black man as savage because that was how the popular culture viewed the African American race. If someone called a black man "savage" today, that someone would be considered a racist.
Throughout time, man has faced many difficulties that have put into question the morals of society and humanity. One case in particular is the differentiation and segregation of people based on race. Never has there been an instance in society where this has not come into question, whether it be Medieval Europe or Colonial America, racism has played a substantial role in shaping civilization. With this in mind, it comes to say that culture has too been greatly affected by this atrocity. Literature, movies, and songs have all through the years reflected the views of the time period, some even going as far to shape how people base their views in the future. One novel that has sparked not only controversy, but has been under constant questioning
Conrad: Blatant Racist Or Political Satirist?
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.
In Joseph Conrad’s unforgettable novel, Heart of Darkness, the profound words of Mr. Kurtz are a judgement of his malevolent life and of humanity in general. “The horror! The horror!” are the uttered words of Kurtz as he returned with Marlow from his civilization in Africa. Conrad left the words open for interpretation, leaving many readers feeling indifferent. As Kurtz encountered death, he reflected on his past and was fond of leaving the diabolical world that he inhabited. He was pleased to be dying due to his own evil, greedy actions as well as the inequality within humanity.
Things Fall Apart was written in response to Heart of Darkness in 1958, therefore, Things Fall Apart automatically has contrasting themes, symbols, and characters that are meant to oppose those set in Conrad’s novella. With the growing popularity of African literature, critics began to question the realism portrayed in each work. Viewing this situation through this lens raises questions about what would be a truthful depiction and what would be a biased depiction. Analyzing this situation through mimeticism and realism, is one way in which this could be observed. In Susan Andrade’s novel, A Forum on Fiction 42.2, she states:
Revealing Lies in Heart of Darkness
A lie is an untruth. It can be a false statement or a statement left unsaid that causes someone to be misled. In life, lies are told for many different reasons.
Heart of Darkness is full of story about race and racism. Generally, the European people are the major racist characters who appear in the text and talk about race more often than other characters. Most European characters constantly use racist phrases to describe native Africans. The book shows most of the part where Marlow, the protagonist, claims about native Africans more than other European characters. Marlow is an iconography of race and theme of racism.
Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness uses character development and character analysis to really tell the story of European colonization. Within Conrad's characters one can find both racist and colonialist views, and it is the opinion, and the interpretation of the reader which decides what Conrad is really trying to say in his work.
In his somewhat famous criticism of Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe questions whether a “novel which celebrate this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race can be called a great work of art” (Achebe, 344). The Weavers, Heart of Darkness, and The Woman Warrior are all written works of art that critics, such as Achebe, would condemn for their dehumanization of particular groups. However, these critics overlook what makes these writings true art: their ability to have a positive impact. Works containing dehumanization do not celebrate this treatment of people; they point out flaws in society, creating awareness and the potential for change.
One example that could be considered racist is in Chapter one. In this paragraph, Joseph Conrad is talking about how the Europeans are colonizing Africa and what they are doing to the natives in the process. He says that the Europeans are at fault for many things, including extremely violent robbery and the murders of numerous people. He is speaking about the reality of colonization and how in the end, countries will only care about making money off of it. He said they accomplish this by using “brute force,” which obviously means violence and killing. The European countries wanted to take away Africa from those who had “a different complexion or slightly flatter noses.” Up until this point, it does not seem as if Conrad is using any racist ideas. However, he then goes on to say that all of this is acceptable because it will be worth it in the end. In other words, he was trying to say that the end will justify the means, no matter how many innocent people must be hurt in the process (page 8).