The Two Societies of Africa

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In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, something is always contrasted against something else. Within the title itself, the contrast of light and dark is made. Throughout the book, the contrast is made between good and evil, between the pilgrims and the cannibals that Marlow encounters. Using the ironic opposition of the pilgrims and the cannibals will present a way into a post-colonial analysis of the book. Many authors argue that Conrad was racist throughout his writing of the book, which came out through his main character Marlow and the way that he presented himself. A large racial contrast in the book was between the white people like Marlow and the black slaves of Africa. This opposition is shown through the white “pilgrims” and the black “cannibals.” Marlow describes a pilgrim in the story as a rough and disorderly man who is a: “bloodthirsty little gingery beggar”(67). Whereas he describes a cannibal as a quiet man who has control and is essentially the opposite of how pilgrims are described. This interesting because cannibals are usually known as humans that eat other human beings, so having pilgrims described as “bloodthirsty” shows an ironic contradiction. The connotations associated with these terms are ironic because during this time period, white men were usually described as having control over black people and black people could be described as beggars. Yet, Conrad chooses to give the opposite connotations to the pilgrims and cannibals in his story. In Patrick Brantlingers’ essay Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism? in the book Heart of Darkness, he discusses how the book isn’t one or the other, but encompasses all three aspects. In Brantlingers’ essay he says: “Conrad was consciously ant... ... middle of paper ... portray a different message in his book through the descriptions of the white and black people. Using these ironic terms shows that Conrad wanted to exploit the Native people of Africa and the European people working in Africa through a postcolonial analysis. Whether or not this story has some truth to it as to when Conrad did travel to the Congo is not known. But there is not escaping the premeditated attempts by Conrad to illustrate these two separate cultures as ones whose qualities intersected and overlapped. Works Cited Brantlinger, Patrick. "Heart of Darkness: Anti-Imperialism, Racism, or Impressionism?" Heart of Darkness. New York: Knopf, 1993. 303-22. Print. Clendinnen, I. "PREEMPTING POSTCOLONIAL CRITIQUE: Europeans in the Heart of Darkness." Common Knowledge 13.1 (2007): 1-17. Print. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Knopf, 1993. Print

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