Authors often write not only to tell a story, but to communicate personal ideas and opinions to the readers. Even more personal beliefs can be read through the bias that the author uses, often the product of society or race. In the novella Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad displays his opinions through the attitudes and actions of his main characters Marlow and Mr. Kurtz. Similarly, Chinua Achebe shows his personal beliefs through the character Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. Both authors, whether intentionally or not, show their opinions on the relations between Native Africans and European colonists in the Victorian era, and the races themselves.
Conrad’s main character Marlow is the narrator for most of the story in Heart of Darkness. He is presented as a well-intentioned person, and along his travels he is shocked by the cruelties that he sees inflicted on the native people. Though he is seemingly benevolent and kindly, Marlow shows the racism and ignorance of Conrad and in fact of the majority of white people in his era, in a more subtle way. Marlow uses words to describe the blacks that, though generally accepted in his time, were slanderous and crude. He recalls that some of the first natives he saw in the Congo looked at him “with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages” (80; part 1). Marlow casually refers to the Africans with the most offensive of language: “Strings of dusty niggers arrived and departed…” (83; part 1). To Marlow, and thus to Conrad, the Africans are savages, dogs, devils, and criminals. Even the stories that Conrad creates for Marlow to narrate are twisted and false. The natives that Marlow deals with in the book are described as cannibals, and they are even given dialogue that affirms their eating habits:
Their headman, a young, broad-chested black, severely draped in dark-blue fringed clothes, with fierce nostrils and his hair all done up artfully in oily ringlets, stood near me. ‘Aha!’ I said, just for good fellowship’s sake. ‘Catch ‘im,’ he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth – ‘catch ‘im. Give ‘im to us.’ ‘To you, eh?’ I asked; ‘What would you do with them?’ ‘Eat ‘im!’ he said curtly… (111; part 2)
Marlow makes vast assumptions about the mental ability and stability of the natives. They are wild and less than human to him: unpredictable, untamable, and dangerous. There are a few examples of Africans who, in the book, rise above the station of basic labor slave, but to Marlow these natives seem even more inferior. “And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs,” (106; part 2). Marlow’s careless racism brings light to the true feelings and prejudices of Joseph Conrad.
The more evident racism in Heart of Darkness is shown...