Achebe essay on heart of darkness

A wild story of a journalist who becomes manager of a station in the African interior and makes himself worshipped by a tribe of savages.

Heart of Darkness Lecture Four: Is This Novel Racist?

Thus described, the subject seems comic, but it isn't. Set in the African Interior and based on Conrad's own experiences as the captain of a Belgian steamer, Heart of Darkness isn't much like the rousing adventure story that it sounds like. It's less Indiana Jones and the Ivory Traders than, psychological horror with a dash of the horrors the horrors! And in February of , readers of Blackwood's Magazine —a high-falutin' literary rag , kind of like The New Yorker —were treated to the first of its three parts.

Conrad is one of the most important English writers of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. And get this: he wasn't even a native English speaker.

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Conrad was Polish, and he didn't actually learn English until he was in his twenties—and after he'd already learned French. Think about that next time you complain about having to write an essay. His works explore the seedy underbelly of imperialism , the move of European countries to stake out claim to various far-flung parts of the world. Heart of Darkness is set right after the Scramble for Africa , the period of the late nineteenth century when imperial powers sliced up and doled out Africa like some particularly delicious—and ivory-rich—birthday cake.

None of the Western countries really come off looking good in this whole debacle, but Belgium, unfortunately, looks particularly bad. They were after the valuable ivory hidden away in the African Interior, and they weren't afraid to brutalize and oppress the Africans in order to get it. Heart of Darkness follows the disturbing journey of English ivory-trading agent Marlow, who, working for a Belgian company, travels into the jungles of Africa in search of a mysterious man named Kurtz who appears to have 1 become a god-like figure, and 2 gone totally off his rocker.

Chinua Achebe's Response to Conrad

It's a searching exploration of difference : of good and evil, black and white, sanity and insanity. In the end, what we're left with is …nothing. Most contemporary critics agree that the novel is about the essential emptiness at the core of humanity—and language.


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That's why T. Eliot used a quotation from the novel as an epigraph to his poem " The Hollow Men ," a super important and famous literary exploration of modern life. One last and important thing: in , Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe spoke out against the novel. He accused it of making its point by dehumanizing Africans and reducing them to extensions of the hostile and primal jungle environment. Conrad's language was beautiful and seductive, he said—but it was wrong. Beautiful, seductive, and wrong. To us, that sounds a lot like how Marlow would describe Kurtz—and it's a good example of how head-twistingly complex this novel is.

Get comfy. This is going to take a while. For a simple—or is that complex? Achebe concludes his article by surmising that people in our present day and age or that of do not view the novella or Joseph Conrad himself as racist, because such an attitude towards Africans was normal in his time.

Is Heart of Darkness Racist?

Conrad was supposedly only perpetuating this already quite familiar western idea of Africa. Downloading text is forbidden on this website.


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This material is available only on Freebooksummary. But one criticism that has hovered the novella for a long time, is the issue of race. In the fall of , Chinua Achebe gave his…. Essays Essays FlashCards. Browse Essays. Show More. Read More.

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