Conrad's Heart Of Darkness And The Dehumanization Of Africans

3005 words - 12 pages

Heart of Darkness and the Dehumanization of Africans

    The Western world, generally speaking, is not kind to Africa and its native inhabitants. We acknowledge Africa's existence, but we do not want to see or understand anything about it beyond the obvious: overt things that are open to criticism like Apartheid (a European invention). The occasional praiseworthy entity is given momentary applause, but felicitations are short-lived and quickly forgotten. These statements refer just to politics, so one can imagine the rightful indignation by twentieth-century African writers when their work is largely ignored in favor of such enlightening fare as Heart of Darkness. One writer, Chinua Achebe, seeks to change this view by illustrating the complex, unquestionably civilized rituals and protocols of day-to-day African life. He is not alone in his endeavor, as several other writers also portray an Africa worthy of respect while they crumble the long-standing traditions of ignorant bias and patronization.

Can Achebe really change the perception that Africa is nothing more than the heart of an immense darkness that surrounds all of us? That is exactly what he tries to do in his essay on racism. He ascertains that "white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked." He further questions the classification of Heart of Darkness (or any work that dehumanizes Africans) as a "great work of art" (12). Obviously, this essay is more direct in its attack on the standard view of Africa than his novels, but Achebe uses the essay forum to state his hopes about the future of African literature in the West. He wants to rehabilitate this image that he keeps seeing from everyone who has read Conrad but nothing on the other side with which to compare. He no longer thinks that nonexposure to African history and literature is an appropriate excuse for absorbing Conrad's drivel as the absolute truth.

Unfortunately for Achebe, many people still think of Africa as a shadowy place containing secret knowledge about the beginnings of mankind and how man would exist if he were not "civilized." However, he does not let that stop him from doing his best in his novels to counter that supposition. Okonkwo is far from being "a thing monstrous" or an inhabitant of "prehistoric earth . . . that wore the aspect of an unknown planet" (Conrad 108). He is a complicated man living in a complicated society. He has faults, strengths, and desires, and he would hardly worship a Kurtz if one happened to show up in Umuofia one day. Yes, Okonkwo and his fellow Igbo have some strange customs, but as Achebe points out in his essay, Yonkers, New York, has its own share of strange customs and rituals that a stranger might find primitive on the surface (2). This information would come as no shock to many anthropologists, nor would it seem strange to others (except, perhaps, the residents of Yonkers), but it is the attitude of...

Find Another Essay On Conrad's Heart of Darkness and the Dehumanization of Africans

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Essay

610 words - 2 pages Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad, like many authors, used his own experiences for the basis of his novels. Specifically, Conrad’s journey on the Congo River as captain of a West African river steamer formed the basis for his novel Heart of Darkness. In this novel, the narrator of the story, Marlow, Conrad's protagonist, travels up the Congo in search of Kurtz, an ivory trader, and eventually ends up in the “heart of darkness.” Conrad also

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Essay

1390 words - 6 pages Sameer BhavnaniDr. Alex TothEnglish 1AMay 23, 2003Racism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness"We have to be very chary about pontificating on the "totality of meaning" of "Heart of Darkness."' Written by Harold Collins, who believes when you read the book one should not come to easy conclusions. (104) Many scholars such as Ian Watt speculate that Joseph Conrad was a racist, writing, "...using the word "cannibal" to describe natives of Africa

Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

693 words - 3 pages Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness" written in 1902 is an overwhelming chronicle of Marlow's journey into the heart of the African continent. It is one of the most influential novels of the twentieth century. In this ghastly and horrific tale, Marlow leads an expedition up the Congo River, only to find everything is not as it seems. This haunting and mysterious story takes him into the

Theme of Colonialism and Imperialism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

1047 words - 4 pages The Theme of Imperialism in Heart of Darkness     Of the themes in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, imperialism and colonialism are probably the most important. While Heart of Darkness is actually set on the Thames River, the events Marlow describes are set on the Congo River. "The Congo is the river that brought about the partition of Africa that occurred from 1880 to 1890" (McLynn 13). This event marked the beginning of the colonization of

Symbols, Setting, and Ironies of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

1223 words - 5 pages Symbols, Setting, and Ironies of Heart of Darkness    Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, is about many things: seafaring, riverboating, trade and exploration, imperialism and colonialism, race relations, the attempt to find meaning in the universe while trying to get at the mysteries of the subconscious mind. Heart of Darkness is a vivid portrayal of European imperialism.  The book in other words is a story about European "acts of

Misleading Interpretations of Conrad's Heart of Darkness

1188 words - 5 pages ). While reading Heart of Darkness, I noticed a significant difference in the levels of communication that were allotted between the Europeans and the Africans. This drastic difference in speech was at the core of Achebe's argument that Conrad deprived the Africans of human qualities. Achebe pointed out that "in place of speech they made 'a violent babble of uncouth sounds,'" also saying that "it is clearly not of Conrad's purpose to confer language

Comparing Shakespeare's Hamlet and Marlowe of Conrad's Heart of Darkness

1209 words - 5 pages Comparing Shakespeare's Hamlet and Marlowe of Conrad's Heart of Darkness Prince Hamlet, of Shakespeare's famed tragedy, and Marlowe of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, are similarly situated characters. Despite superficially different settings and plots, there is a remarkably similar thematic element shared between both works. Prince Hamlet and Marlowe are brought to the very brink of insanity by their immersion in

The Character of Marlow in Conrad's Heart of Darkness

921 words - 4 pages The Character of Marlow in Heart of Darkness     Sifting through the detailed descriptions of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness provides tremendous insight into the character of Marlow. Conrad’s words paint Marlow’s personality as selfish and steady. Marlow can be an amazingly selfish character. You have to wonder if that was his conscious attempt to stay sane or if it was truly how he interacted. While in the outer station Marlow observed

An Analysis of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

1319 words - 5 pages genius," who had made himself a god in the eyes of the natives over whom he had an imperceptible power. These two men were, in a sense, images of each other: Marlow was what Kurtz may have been, and Kurtz was what Marlow may have become.Like a jewel, "Heart of Darkness" has many facets. From one view it is an exposure of Belgian methods in the Congo, which at least for a good part of the way sticks closely to Conrad's own experience. Typically

The Meaning of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

1363 words - 5 pages the journey proceeds from the Coastal Station to Kurtz’s outpost, darkness increasingly becomes associated with savagery, cannibalism, and human sacrifice, with Africans as the embodiment of these ideas" (p.87). Conrad depicts his ideas about Africa in this way as well as through the character of Marlow. As author Gary Adelman comments on this in his book Heart of Darkness Search for the Unconscious "Africans, in their free state, as described by

The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

1042 words - 4 pages The Role of Women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Women have taken an increasingly important role in literature. Only recently have authors portrayed women in a dominant, protagonistic light. Sophocles and other classical writers portrayed women more as reactors than heroines. Since the ancient Greeks, however, a trend has been established that gives women characters much more substance and purpose. A definite shift from the

Similar Essays

Conrad's "The Heart Of Darkness". Essay

3055 words - 12 pages In Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" there are many controversies. In this paper I wish to discuss two of them: light vs. dark and black vs. white. I will write about the differences between Conrad's perception of what and why he wrote the characters as he did and Marlow's ways of acting in the story because of the way Conrad wrote his character that reminds me so much of Conrad. I wish to incorporate quotes that will help me describe me

The Descriptiveness Of Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

1367 words - 5 pages make colonies all over Asia and Africa. The Europeans behaved and acted like the kings of the world. They considered Africans as objects and not people. In the novel, Africans were merely used as a backdrop where Marlow—the main character can lay out his philosophical and existential struggles. The dehumanization is harder to identify then open racism or violence. Also, Conrad, through the book hypocrites his own country and blames them for

Psychoanalysis And Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

1134 words - 5 pages Psychoanalysis and The Heart of Darkness         In Lacanian psychoanalysis, telling stories is essential to the analysand's (re)cognition of trauma. Julia Kristeva refers to the analysand's narrative as an instance of "'borderline' [neurotic] discourse" which "gives the analyst the impression of something alogical, unstitched, and chaotic" (42). She then explores the pleasure (jouissance) that the analysand experiences in the course of

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis And Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

2066 words - 8 pages ‘savages’. This dehumanisation of Africa and the Africans is shown when Marlow refers to his helmsman as a ‘savage’, and compares him to a ‘grain of sand in the black Sahara.’ When Marlow begins his narration he speaks about how Africa was a blank space on the map; however, soon after he says that ‘it had ceased to be a blank space’, but rather ‘it had become a place of darkness.’ The novel’s very name suggests that Africa is the ‘heart’ of