Achebe's "An Image Of Africa : Racism In Conrad's Heart Of Darkness"

3095 words - 12 pages

Achebe's "An Image of Africa : Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" (The Massachusetts Review, 18 (1977) : 782 - 94) expresses a passionate objection to Conrad's point of view and portrayal of Africa and Africans in his novel Heart of Darkness. Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart, can be considered the direct opposition to Conrad's Heart of Darkness and is seen to as a challenge on Conrad's western views. I shall explore the validity in Achebe's "An Image of Africa : Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" with regards to language, characterisation, religion and culture. Other opinions from critical readings will also be included and referenced to the two novels ( Things Fall Apart & Heart of Darkness ).Achebe felt that Conrad's Heart of Darkness "others" Africa and Africans, when he says "others" he means that it represents the Africans as a colonised people who have little "common sense" and no authority. Furthermore it shows them as a separate race or species to further illustrate how they were treated as animals and savages. The term "common sense" used earlier also illustrates how Achebe took offence to the Western ideologies in that "common sense" is a term invented by Westerners. "Common sense" is the general term one uses for Western beliefs and values but other cultures (especially African cultures) have not been included as a part of this terminology. African cultures are, in fact, criticized by the term "common sense", which once again Achebe took offence to. Achebe felt that Heart of Darkness was also a way of "writing back to the centre" in that it represented the Western people or Colonists as the dominant and superior force, to Achebe it was an alienation of the Africans and Africa. Heart of Darkness, therefore displaced the Africans in the novel; instead of them seeming good and familiar, they were distanced from the reader. Hence, one can see how Achebe was a strong believer in the "Postcolonial Theory" whereby he mostly challenged but also reflected upon modern European colonisation.Brantlinger's paper discusses the different views on colonisation by explaining five differents stances taken. According to Brantlinger the abolitionist stance (despite its good intentions) pitied the Africans and tried to fight for the Africans, but at the same time it did not occur to them that Africans were also intelligent people who could fight their own battles. It was hence seen that the abolitionists too, were treating the Africans as inferior. His discussion of the explorer's stance illustrates how the explorers exploited Africa and destroyed its people because the explorers saw the Africans as a sub-race of savages who had little to no importance. Brantlinger also shows how scientists saw the Africans as a separate species to humans and that Africans were thought to be animals. Scientists theorised, through Social Darwinism, that the Africans would either have to survive of sucumb. To them the Africans were expendable. To Brantlinger the...

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