Heart of Darkness: Critical Responses Essays

Heart of Darkness: Critical Responses Essays

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In 1890, Joseph Conrad received employment in the Congo working as the captain of a steamboat. After six months, he returned because of illness. Recording his experience in the Congo, Conrad wrote his highly famous novella, Heart of Darkness. Since its publication in 1899, Heart of Darkness has attracted many literary critics. Although many critics have supported the publication of Heart of Darkness, other critics, such as Chinua Achebe, have scrutinized the novella on the grounds of racism. Research does not lead to a conclusive decision on racism in the novella, as there is evidence to support themes of both racism and anti-imperialism.
As previously mentioned, Chinua Achebe is the best known literary critic of Heart of Darkness. In his essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” Achebe clearly presents that he is disgusted with Heart of Darkness and believes “Joseph Conrad [is] a thoroughgoing racist” (1977, pg. 5). Achebe calls attention to many examples where Conrad subjected Africa and its people to racist illustrations and descriptions. One instance of imagery that has stuck with many critics of Heart of Darkness describes the suffering of the Africans. “Near the same tree, two more bundles of acute angles sat with their legs drawn up” (Conrad, 1900, pg. 21). Many have pointed out that this caricature and pose of the African native infantilizes him and takes away his humanity.
Both Achebe and another critic, Memory Chirere, a writer for The Herald, find many faults with Conrad’s stylistic imagery. While Achebe believes that Conrad’s style “[Induces] hypnotic stupor in his readers through a bombardment of emotive words and other forms of trickery,” Chirere calls attention to a different impact cause...

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...ors: An Extravagant Story. London, United Kingdom: William Heinemann.
Davis, Lennard J. (2006). The Value of Teaching From a Racist Classic. The Chronicle Review
Phillips, C. (2007). Was Joseph Conrad Really a Racist. Philosophia Africana,10(1), 59-66.
Raja, M. A. (2007). Joseph Conrad: The Question of Racism and Representation of Muslims in his Malayan Works. Postcolonial Text, 3(4), 1-12.
Said, E. (1993). Two Visions in Heart of Darkness. Culture and Imperialism, 22-31.
Sarvan, C.P.. (1980) Racism and the Heart of Darkness. The International Fiction Review, 7(1), 6-10.
Svensson, Morgan. (2010). Critical Responses to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Flemingsburg, Sweeden: Södertörn University College.
Tindall, William Y. (1966). Apology for Marlow. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Critics (pp. 123-34). By Bruce Harkness. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publications.

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