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Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Dehumanization of Africans

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 ha…

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…oroughly rehabilitated me towards Africans in literature. Only a few billion more to go until Achebe can call his project a success.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.” Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. New York: Anchor, 1990.

— — –. No Longer at Ease. London: Heinemann, 1960.

— — –. Things Fall Apart. 1958. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1. Ed. Maynard Mack. London: Norton, 1995.

Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. 1980. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1. Ed. Maynard Mack. London: Norton, 1995.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Signet, 1997.

Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1. Ed. Maynard Mack. London: Norton, 1995.

Essay on Language in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Use of Language in Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad is a story that connects the audience to the narrator’s senses. We come to understand the environment, the setting, the other charters, and Kurtz strictly from the narrator’s point-of-view, as he experiences things.

We are locked out of Conrad’s (the narrator in this case) world, allowed to feel only what he let’s us, see the savages as he does, through his eyes, feel with his body. We are not able to see how the world views him. Is he seen as superior, a drone, a sailor? His dreamlike consciousness navigates us, the readers, down the river as if we are a part of the flow of things, ripples in the water, patches of the darkness.

Conrad uses language to paint images in our minds. He poignantly uses metaphors like, “In exterior he resembled a butcher in a poor neighborhood” (57) to animate those images, allow them to breath a bit.

His choice of words and word combinations, his poetic tone, and suave style and smooth transitions craft a sensual experience. He is on the surface talking about the exploration of man in Africa with all of its physical and moral dilemma, and yet the underbelly is the interior of man, an endeavor to touch the reader at his core. “Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a center for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.” (104) When Conrad says that the “germs of empires” floated into man’s head , ebbing down the river into the mystery of an unknown earth, his metaphors appeal emotionally to something serious, a commentary on the heart of man. (67)

Our senses are serenely assaulted with tastes and surfaces, sounds and images. The “tremo…

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…their hands, like alot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside the silent wilderness surrounding this clear speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion.

Works Cited and Consulted

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Bantam Books, 1981.

Ross, Mark. “The Roots of Darkness.” 1997.> (9 February 1998)

Ross, Mark. “The Roots of Racism.” 1997. (9 February 1998)

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