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Modern Day Representation Of Racism Of Indigenous Africans And Sexism Of Women In "Heart Of Darkness"

2260 words - 9 pages

Essay Question: From a modern context Conrad's representation of Africans in "Heart of Darkness" may be read as racist, while his representation of women in the text may be read as sexist. Write an assessment of Conrad's representation of indigenous Africans and his representation of women from your reading of this novella.Often a modern day reader will perceive the works of an early 20th century author as being sexist and racist. This is however not entirely true in Joseph Conrad's representation of women and the indigenous Africans in the well read novella, Heart of Darkness. It is an imbedded story of an adventurous Englishman who undertakes a journey into the primitive Congan jungle in order to rescue a strangely successful Ivory merchant, Kurtz, from the dangers posed by the unknown African people, the greed of his Belgian colleagues, and his own base instincts. Through the narrator, Charlie Marlow, Conrad challenges the rapacious Belgian imperialists, specifically King Leopold II's company, who according to Conrad are destroying the Congo and its inhabitants in their desperate materialism and quest for ivory. Within the novel Conrad presents the Belgium Company as destructive, greedy, inept and an ultimately immoral force. In addition he criticises the leech like nature of the Company employees who are essentially passive and do not contribute to the company. In the novel, however, it is possible to see, when reading through a Post-colonial lens, that Conrad presents the Congans as animalistic and inhuman as a means of garnering reader sympathy for their decay as a result of imperialism. Furthermore, the text only exists within a masculine point of view; therefore the representation of the feminine is distorted. By assuming a feminist reading, it is apparent that women within the novel are presented as an inferior gender and are always defined in terms of their male counterpart. Each of the different reading practices produces its own unique interpretations of the text, allowing different ideas to be extracted from the novel.While adhering to the dominant reading of the "Heart of Darkness", the novel can be read as criticism of the treatment of the natives by the Belgians. Through the narrator Marlow, Conrad reveals the plight of the Congans and their suffering due to the Belgian occupation of the Congo. Marlow remarks, "They were not enemies, they were not criminals", highlighting the unjust way in which the Belgians enslaved the natives, exploiting them to drive their quest for ivory. In addition Conrad's powerful description of the chain gang that Marlow witnesses engenders a lot of sympathy towards the Congans:"Black rags were wound round their lions, and short ends behind wagged to and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck"This potent imagery explicitly depicts the abuse of the natives, and explores their degeneration and decay. The symbolism of...

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