Tragedy in Colonial Africa by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

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Darkness. It pervades every corner of this world, casting literal and metaphorical shadow over everything. Creeping in the hearts of humans, drifting across the night sky, under the bed, darkness is a terrifying, yet quintessential concept in our human mentality. And, as such, it presents itself in cultures and stories around the world to explain the unknown and the terrifying. Through the presentation of the struggle with internal and external “darkness,” both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart draw upon contrasting viewpoints and cultures, as well as an ironic play of “darkness” between the Europeans and the Africans, to construe the tragedy unfolding in Colonial Africa.
To begin comparing and contrasting these two pieces of literature, one must first examine the authors. Conrad was a white European, educated, and was a sailor who sailed up the Congo during that time period. He understood what he was talking about as he portrayed Marlow’s battle upriver, fighting the tide of “darkness” stemming from the natives, and the environment. Achebe, on the other hand, was African. He lived a little later than Conrad, seeing not the direct impact of colonization, but the aftereffects, removed from the actions themselves. Both authors criticized colonialism, yet, Conrad’s testimony was far more direct. Heart of Darkness was the story of a man telling his story. The criticism of colonialism contained therein is pronounced, not just in feeling. By contrast, Things Fall Apart is the story of an African man whose homeland is slowly destroyed by invading European culture. The criticism of colonization is less apparent, and inherent with the story itself.
Another interesting note is that, while Achebe did no...

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...mparability. Neither party had anything to which the other could be compared. And, at the end of Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo kills a white man as the man tries to disrupt an important proceeding. He gives in to his “inner-darkness,” and extinguishes the messenger. As he does that, Okonkwo gives in to the final, eternal “darkness,” and his body is found hanging from a tree, an utter disgrace to his honour, rather than allowing the white men to take him.
Darkness. It pervades every nook and cranny of our human minds and souls, held back by the fragile light of our beliefs, yet encroaching entirely in the eyes of another. The darkness is ignorance and fear. It is the quintessence of imperfection, the corruption of the pure, and tragic irony that stems from incomprehension. It explains and confuses, persuades and dissuades. It is the unknown and the unknowable. Darkness.

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