Get help from the best in academic writing.

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is Not a Racist Work

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is Not a Racist Work

Since the publication of Heart of Darkness in 1899, the text has invited both praise and criticism. While some have claimed it is a work ahead of it’s time in it’s criticism of European colonialist practices, others have criticized the text in it’s portrayal of the native African’s. Achebe, Singh, and Sarvan are just a few to name, and although their criticisms differ, they have labeled many aspects of Conrad’s work racist. Conrad certainly was ahead of his time, as his work criticized the colonialism practices by the Europeans by both making readers aware of the issues, and moving the readership to empathize with the natives. The work therefore cannot be seen as racist, however it is a ‘text of it’s time’ (Conrad expresses a dominant view through Marlow ) in the social classification, with the black natives essentially being the ‘other’, seen through the portrayal of the native Africans.

The racial construction of the natives in Heart of Darkness is one of which the dominant society would have conformed to. Conrad constantly referred to the natives, in his book, as black savages, niggers, brutes, and “them”, displaying perhaps ignorance toward the African history and racism towards the African people, Conrad wrote, ” Black figures strolled out listlessly… the beaten nigger groaned somewhere” (Conrad 28). “They passed me with six inches, without a glance, with the complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages” (Conrad 19). The language expressed was common in the context of it’s publication, and it may be reflective of the greater society’s ignorance to the native African’s, with Marlow too, being constructed as a product of his society, therefore his views and opin…

… middle of paper …

…the character of Marlow who is a product of his time. Although Achebe, among many others may be correct in saying that Conrad portrays the natives as the ‘other’, it’s the manifestation of Conrad, and the society of the time which leads to this portrayal.

Works Cited

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.

The Characters, Setting, and Symbols of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Beyond the shield of civilization and into the depths of a primitive, untamed frontier lies the true face of the human soul. It is in the midst of this savagery and unrelenting danger that mankind confronts the brooding nature of his inner self. Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness, is the story of one man’s insight into life as he embarks on a voyage to the edges of the world. Here, he meets the bitter, yet enlightening forces that eventually shape his outlook on life and his own individuality. Conrad’s portrayal of the characters, setting, and symbols, allow the reader to reflect on the true nature of man.

The two main characters in Heart of Darkness, Marlow and Kurtz are used to show the true nature of man, that is, the capacity for good and evil within humanity. The central character is a thirty two year old sailor, Charlie Marlow. Marlow is the primary narrator in the novel, therefore his thought’s, opinions, experiences and revelations, shape the entire novels themes and the value system put forward. Marlow illustrates how forces of light and darkness serve to weave the human soul together; thus, essentially how good and evil are reflected in an individual. This is particularly important regarding the construction of Marlow, who is essentially a biased narrator, and a product of his European upbringing. An example is his inability to deal with the dying natives at the “grove of death”, offering a native a biscuit as an apparent kind gesture. Yet this is only due to him not being confronted with situations like this previously where his own values, and the whole premise behind colonialism, the exploitation is revealed. The patriarchial views of women he displays also outline the background of Marlow and the a…

… middle of paper …

…o man can live on the island without becoming a brutal savage. Inside his heart lies the raw evil of untamed lifestyle” (Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation).

Works Cited

“The Congo” Created December 07, 1995. Web. 23 February 2007.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.

“The Fear” Created December 07, 1995. Web. 9 February 2007.

“Heart of Darkness: A systematic evaluation of the darkness inherent in men’s souls” “The Perfect Native” Created December 07, 1995. Web. 12 February 2007.

“The Setting” Created December 07, 1995. Web. 12 February 2007.

Works Consulted

Goonetilleke, D.C.R.A. “Heart of Darkness: Overview.” Literature Resources from Gale. Gale, 1994. Web. 18 February 2007.

Loe, Thomas. “Heart of Darkness: Overview.” Literature Resources from Gale. Gale, 1991. Web. 12 February 2007.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.