Imperialism In The Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad

1038 words - 5 pages

Humans, being a visually oriented species, lack objectivity in their actions and observations; two people could interpret any particular incident in countless ways. Joseph Conrad’s attitude towards imperialism in Heart of Darkness ignited a flame of controversy. Cedric Watts and Chinua Achebe, two prominent writers, took different sides on this seemingly endless debate; a debate originating from the “darkness”. In Watts’s Indirect Methods Convey Conrad’s Views of Imperialism, Watts argues that Conrad is an artistic anti-imperialist, subliminally conveying the “corruption and hypocrisy of imperialism” (Watts, p.1). Achebe interpreted Conrad’s intentions in a completely opposite manner compared to Watts; Achebe’s critique of Conrad’s novella – Conrad’s Racism – revolved around the imperialistic aspects of Conrad’s personnel, and the imperialistic-byproducts that were notable in Conrad’s novella. Racism and the dehumanization of the African figure were two of those issue that aroused Achebe’s emotional ties to his “original” roots. Achebe’s attitude in his critique was that of great perplexity; solely driven by patriotic emotions and fear of belittlement, Achebe degraded the novella to a non-artistic work, in attempt to defend himself, rather than the Nigerians, who he supposedly represents. This, I believe, lessens the authenticity of Achebe, and puts Watts’s perspective on this controversial issue a few steps ahead. Conrad, from my perspective, courageously revealed the commonly misinterpreted – and usually hidden – ideology of imperialism in his novella, proving him an anti-imperialist thereof.

“The locus of the human mystery is perception of this world. From it proceeds every thought, every art.” (Marilynne Robinson). Heart of Darkness was able to create a reality of its own, encompassing all of the characters and the events. The excessive use of words and imagery made it a true work of art, saturated with all of Conrad’s thought and predispositions on imperialism, which only imperialists knew, yet none of them would expose “The art of Conrad is an art of ambush” (Watts, p. 4). Conrad’s novella was nothing but a mere reflection on what he knew, and what he thought. The vision of life that Conrad adopted was a blend of a pre-made imperialistic vision – since he was born an imperialist – and his unique anti-imperialistic vision. Racism was a natural by-product of imperialism that was innate for imperialists. Conrad’s “dehumanization” of the Africans appears explicitly racist and blunt on the top, but once a person digs deeper into it, Conrad’s anti-imperialistic soul would shine. “I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them…but these men could by no stretch of imagination be called enemies” (Achebe, p. 3). Conrad sympathized with those natives, and presented them as victims of imperialism; thus he...

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