Prejudice, Racism And Power In Heart Of Darkness

1080 words - 4 pages

Race and Power in Heart of Darkness

   In Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, the socially constructed differences of African and European cultures are effective in representing the power sites of the time. The alleged `superiority' of the European culture can be recognized by comparing their ideologies to those of the primitive, `inferior' `savages.' Conrad's personal experiences in the Belgian Congo, in the 1890s, influenced the compilation of Heart of Darkness, reflecting the waste and inefficiency of British Colonialism. Conrad referred to the colonization of Africa as, "the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration."(Joffe, 78) The cultural differentiation between the two races is utilized as a mechanism for the European society to justify the cruelty, suppression and alienation towards the African people.


Contrasts between white and black throughout the text, encourage the reader to identify the marginalized and the dominating race. The European society being `white' is presented as `greater' against which the `black' African society is judged as `lesser.' Marlow refers to the city of Brussels as a "whited sepulchre"(p24), which represents the splendor and glory of the city, hiding the corruption and darkness beneath. This ostentatious image of Brussels is then contrasted to the calamity visited upon an African village. "The village was deserted, the huts gaped black, rotting, all askew within the fallen enclosures."(p24). This austere image of death and desolation, confronts the reader with the power and callousness of the European society. The horrific scene of dying natives, "in every pose of contorted collapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence,"(p36) is juxtaposed with, "such an unexpected elegance of get-up"(p36) worn by the European Chief Accountant. Among the confusion and, "great demoralization of the land,"(p36) he still has the time and influence to train a native woman to care for his wardrobe. The reader is positioned to view the Europeans as a sophisticated race with dominance over the primitive Africans.


The attitudes and values of the European society during the late 1800s are represented through Conrad's construction of Marlow, thereby imparting to the reader a deeper understanding of the power sites of the era. Marlow comes to scorn imperialism as he witnesses the cruelty, vindictiveness and debasement of western man. Marlow refers to the Eldorado Exploring Expedition as "the less valuable animals."(p59). He has come to realize that due to their lack of moral values, they are of no more worth than the donkeys they led. Although Marlow condemns the operations of imperialism, and sympathizes with the natives, he still shares the prejudices of many of his fellow Europeans, viewing the natives as insignificant. To Marlow his helmsman is merely "an instrument"(p84) and the ...

Find Another Essay On Prejudice, Racism and Power in Heart of Darkness

Prejudice and Racism in The Jewel in the Crown and Heart of Darkness

1402 words - 6 pages alive" in the river of love representing her and Hari's love.               The Jewel in the Crown and Heart of Darkness are excellent examples of how racism was perceived in early Modernism and Postcolonial Literature. The British value of learned prejudice produced a fear of dark skin, especially when curious attraction and primitive instinct felt natural to the British. However, as values are questioned, and basic human emotion is

Racism in "Heart of Darkness" and "Apocalypse Now"

643 words - 3 pages The book "Heart of Darkness" and the movie "Apocalypse Now" are two works dealing with deep issues of evil. (Beyond imperialism, because the evil of imperialism has a root. For example, crack the nut) They refer places boiling down to a discussion of racism. The Thames River as in any mythology is a source of life. At the end, Marlow comes upon Kurtz's Intended and said, "An object of the fecund". Also, these two works deal with how a man is

Modern day representation of racism of Indigenous Africans and sexism of women in "Heart of Darkness"

2260 words - 9 pages of his society's inherent racism. While Conrad offers sympathy towards the Congans he never fully acknowledges their humanity, as they are always represented with shadowy or animalistic imagery.Achebe states that "Heart of Darkness" presents Africa as the "antithesis of Europe and therefore civilisation", and therefore the Congans are subhuman, and the binary opposite of the European man. This idea of "the other" is very prominent in the novel

Marlow's Racism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

3662 words - 15 pages Marlow's Racism in Heart of Darkness          Heart of Darkness is an intriguing story as well as a symbol for Joseph Conrad's social commentary on imperialism.  Marlow's journey takes him deep into the African Congo where he bears witness to a number of life-altering revelations.  He beholds his most striking revelation when he begins to compare the "civilized European man" with the "savage African man."  These two opposing forces

Heart Darkness Vs. Racism

1547 words - 6 pages Heart of Darkness is a great novel written by Joseph Conrad, this novel calls the very humanity of black people in to question, it also presents a powerful critique of imperialism and racism, so it is clear that there is a message needs to be sent through the events of this story. Morcover Heart of Darkness is still overrated not only because concod couldn't write english properly, but also because the case against it made by Chinua Achebe, he

A Comparison of the Power of Will in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now

1925 words - 8 pages The Power of Will in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now        The story of Heart of Darkness was adapted to film after many failed attempts. (Hearts of Darkness, Coppala E.). Finally, director Francis Coppala collaborated with his friend John Milius on writing a screen play for Conrad's masterpiece. The two came up with Apocalypse Now, utilizing a more modern setting than the original story which was based in imperialistic Europe. The

Restraint of Feminine Power in Kubla Kahn, Heart of Darkness, and Death Constant Beyond Love

1656 words - 7 pages , gravitate toward the latter argument. To understand their thinking, the following three works are instrumental: Romantic Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “Kubla Kahn” (1797), Modernist Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness (1899), and Post-Modernist Gabriel García Márquez’s short story, “Death Constant Beyond Love” (1970). In these works, an increasing tendency to contain rather than exploit feminine power reveals the fragility of the male

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

Consider the power of the Inner Journey to challenge your thinking in Morgans 'My Place', Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' and Attwood's poem 'Journey to the interior.'

1694 words - 7 pages the power it holds to affect all who come in its path by challenging their perspectives and values, inciting a reassessment of their reality and identity. A better understanding of the world and self is clearly evident in My Place, Journey to the Interior, and Heart of Darkness, all of which are testaments to the power of the inner journey to challenge human thought, illustrated through deviating techniques appropriate to their respective forms, settings and purposes.

Elements of Darkness in Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness

1284 words - 5 pages Elements of Darkness in Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness       In both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness certain elements of darkness attempt to show how deep one must look inside themselves to discover the truth. Conrad portrays the idea of the darkness of the human heart through things such as the interior of the jungle and it's immensity, the Inner Station, and Kurtz's own twisted deeds. Coppola's heart of darkness is represented

Light and Dark in Heart of Darkness

1294 words - 5 pages Light and Dark in Heart of Darkness     The brightest of lights can obscure vision while darkness can contain truths: one must not be distracted by the sheen of light, which conceals the deeper reality present in darkness. Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness illustrates this idea with the use of several symbols. White Europeans are used as symbols of self-deception, and objects with an alabaster quality are symbols of barriers to

Similar Essays

Prejudice And Racism In Heart Of Darkness?

890 words - 4 pages Heart of Darkness: Racist or not?   Many critics, including Chinua Achebe in his essay "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness", have made the claim that Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, despite the insights which it offers into the human condition, ought to be removed from the canon of Western literature. This claim is based on the supposition that the novel is racist, more so than other novels of its time

Prejudice And Racism In Heart Of Darkness

3461 words - 14 pages Racism in Heart of Darkness        Heart of Darkness is a social commentary on imperialism, but the characters and symbols in the book have a meaning for both the psychological and cultural aspects of Marlow’s journey.  Within the framework of Marlow’s psychedelic experience is an exploration of the views the European man holds of the African man. These views express the conflict between the civilized and the savage, the modern and the

Prejudice And Racism In Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness

826 words - 3 pages Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness   Imagine floating up the dark waters of the Congo River in the Heart of Africa. The calmness of the water and the dense fog make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck as you wonder if the steamboats crew will eat you as you sleep. These things occur in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Although the book is undeniably racist, was the author, Joseph Conrad, racist? Conrad was racist because he

Prejudice In Heart Of Darkness: Racism Is A Relative Term

1043 words - 4 pages makes it, in many ways, easy to see racist statements in the text and this is why it is also easy to classify the text as a racist text. Nevertheless, a text does not need to be racist just because some of the characters in the text are. Heart of Darkness is an example of a text with many racist statements without being racist itself. Moreover, why is that one might wonder? Mostly because there are also many antiracist parts in the book. I have