Heart Of Darkness: Critical Responses Essay

2371 words - 9 pages

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 caused by Conrad’s imagery (Achebe, 1977, pg. 2). While many supporters of Heart of Darkness believe that Conrad uses his “derogatory” imagery to evoke sympathy of the inhumane treatment of Africans, Chirere disagrees. Chirere states “If the [novella] caused sympathy towards that African, it was that sympathy one has for an animal in agony, not fellow human beings” (Chirere, 2013, pg. 2). Apart from these illustrative descriptions, critics point to the racist differences in speech between the Africans and the Europeans, the differences in illustration of the mistress and the Intended, and the differences in description of the Congo River and the Thames River.
Although critics such as Achebe and Chirere have classified Heart of Darkness as racist, there are still an abundance of supporters. Many believe that instead of advocating racism, the novella promotes an anti-imperialist theme. C.P. Sarvan and Patrick Brantlinger have written essays testifying to the amount of anti-imperialism in Heart of Darkness. According to Brantlinger, “[Cedric] Watts interprets Heart of Darkness as an exposé of imperialist rapacity and violence” (1985, pg. 278). This exposé of violence can be found in many of the descriptions that are made of...

Find Another Essay On Heart of Darkness: Critical Responses

Heart of Darkness Essay

988 words - 4 pages The Real Heart Of Darkness Heart of Darkness is not only the title of Joseph Conrad’s novella, it is also a main theme. This is portrayed through different images of darkness, black and evil throughout his story. The setting is often used with images of darkness; even as Marlow tells his tale, it is night. This ‘darkness’ is inside many concepts of the novella such as Africa, women, black people, maps, the ivory trade corporation and Kurtz

The Heart of Darkness Essay

896 words - 4 pages Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness portrays the soul of man as evil, to him the heart is a dark place filled with malcontent. The heart of man is not naturally evil; man is sick, and sick people do bad things. The appearance of man in an outward form suggests evil intent; however, this is just the byproduct of a spiritual war that is being waged for man’s soul. Just as when a man is sick and he lashes out from pain; humanity is doing the same

Heart Of Darkness

815 words - 3 pages Heart of Darkness Heart of Darkness written by Joseph Conrad is a dark tale concerning the scientific revolution of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Heart of Darkness takes place along the Congo River, which runs through Africa. During Conrad's time imperialistic powers of outside nations were trying to divvy up Africa. Conrad used his ideals about modern beliefs to create his extravagate novel Heart of Darkness. Heart of Darkness is a dark

heart of darkness

1849 words - 7 pages Various parallels can be drawn when comparing and contrasting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Frank Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", while taking into consideration Heart of Darkness is a novella and "Apocalypse Now" is a film. These differences and similarities can be seen in themes, characters, events and other small snippets of information including anything from quoted lines to strange actions of the main characters

Heart Of Darkness

865 words - 3 pages recognize while in other titles, the significance is only developed gradually. The latter is the case for Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness. The author implements the literary devices of contrast, repetition and point of view to successfully convey the meaning and symbolism of his title.      At first read through the short book, one may perceive the “heart of darkness” to simply be the wilderness in the center of Africa into

Heart of Darkness Analysis

935 words - 4 pages Civilization is not as advanced as first assumed. Joseph Conrad asserts this disheartening message in his novel, Heart of Darkness. The novel follows a European man reliving his journey to the Congo through story telling to his shipmates. Through Marlow’s journey, Conrad reveals the stark contrasts between European civilization and African savagery. Heart of Darkness explores the struggles of different societies with an intention to expose the

Heart of Darkness

1219 words - 5 pages In the nineteenth century, a drastic change known as the Scramble for Africa occurred. Leading the race of the new imperialism was the never setting sun that was the British Empire; as it looted, killed, and destroyed Africa, the greatest empire in the world gave little consideration to the native inhabitants of the land. Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, is an exciting account of an arduous expedition into the darkest part of

Heart of Darkness Intro

1385 words - 6 pages HOD Intros Babienko AP English #1 - Intro and Conclusion:In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the balance of man's savage nature and the suppression of his natural desires by "civilization" is explored. Conrad asks "what is civilization?" and uses Kurtz's experiences to define it as a façade of society designed to repress man's natural desires. This conclusion helps to bring to light the pitfalls of colonialism, the necessity of

Heart of Darkness Essay

799 words - 3 pages When considering a work of literature, the title can be just as important as the context of the story. Literary devices such as contrast and repetition help develop the symbolism of Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness. The use of contrast can be seen within the differences between the black and white people along with the differences between the civilized and uncivilized. The phrase "Heart of Darkness" itself is

Heart of Darkness

809 words - 4 pages Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness is about Marlow’s journey up the Congo River; he’s the steamships captain and his duty is to get ivory. During his journey, he will obsess with Mr. Kurtz, a reputable man who everyone looks up to, but mostly with the natives .While traveling through Africa, he will encounter many natives or as he prefers to describe them “savages”. Joseph Conrad is a polish author and is considered a great writer

Heart of Darkness

1301 words - 6 pages Heart of Darkness. That title rings with agony, loneliness, and the sense of evil. The words produce an image of a black heart entangled with unbreakable vines. To have a heart that is figuratively black and bounded to the ties of evil is a bitter and deathly symbol. Who could possibly have that heart? Joseph Conrad, for example, was a man with a heart of darkness. His life reeked with self deception and inner conflicts. Conrad’s book, Heart of

Similar Essays

Critical Lens Heart Of Darkness And Lord Of The Flies

646 words - 3 pages the author attempts to exemplify the evil which lies within by showing many characters which have been, or are being overcome by their inner darkness. In the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad we see how Marlow's journey into his ultimate evil, into his inner self, can be a positive experience. By contrasting Marlow with Kurtz, who represents the absolute evil, we can see the two products of an inner evil which has emerged. Marlow, who

Joseph Conrad Is More Critical Of Whites Than Blacks In Heart Of Darkness

2356 words - 9 pages An essay arguing that Joseph Conrad is more critical of Whites than Blacks in Heart of Darkness To the vast majority of Europeans of the 19th century, colonization was a noble cause that brought civilization, Christianity and culture to underdeveloped civilizations. Many Europeans believed that they were welcomed abroad and were improving societies in the name of God. Far ahead of his time, Joseph Conrad saw the hypocrisy with this

"Heart Of Darkness": The Darkness Essay

1381 words - 6 pages Images of Darkness, in the novel "Heart of Darkness" represent the savagery that takes over one's soul; it can be delayed but never stopped, and no one is safe from it. This is shown through many characters and images in this novel. Kurtz, the Accountant, and the Pilgrims are all symbols that show how the darkness has turned them into savages. Marlow, the harlequin, and the idea of work all show that the darkness can be delayed from getting your

Another Heart Of Darkness Essay

907 words - 4 pages grace will be manifest.' Africa is 'the other world,'..." (281). Achebe, Chinua [An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness.] Heart of Darkness. By Joseph Conrad 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical 1988. Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical, 1988. Sarvan, C. P. [Racism and the Heart of Darkness.] Heart of Darkness. By Joseph Conrad 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical 1988. Singh, Frances B. [The Colonialistic Bias of Heart of Darkness.] Heart of Darkness. By Joseph Conrad 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton Critical 1988.