Heart Of Darkness Essay

1434 words - 6 pages

Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness uses character development and character analysis to really tell the story of European colonization. Within Conrad's characters one can find both racist and colonialist views, and it is the opinion, and the interpretation of the reader which decides what Conrad is really trying to say in his work.

Chinua Achebe, a well known writer, once gave a lecture at the University of Massachusetts about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, entitled "An image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." Throughout his essay, Achebe notes how Conrad used Africa as a background only, and how he "set Africa up as a foil to Europe," (Achebe, p.251) while he also "projects the image of Africa as the ‘other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilizations" (Achebe, p.252). By his own interpretations of the text, Achebe shows that Conrad eliminates "The African as a human factor," thereby "reducing Africa to the role of props" (Achebe, p.257).

In supporting these accusations against Conrad, Achebe cites specific examples from the text, while also, pointing out that there is a lack of certain characteristics among the characters. Achebe then compares the descriptions of the Intended and the native woman. Explaining that the savage "fulfills a structural requirement of the story: a savage counterpart to the refined European woman," and also that the biggest "difference is the one implied in that author's bestowal of human expression to the one and the withholding of it from the other" (Achebe p.255). This lack of human expression and human characteristics is what Achebe says contributes to the overflowing amount of racism within Conrad's novel. Human expression, is one of few things that make us different from animals, along with such things as communication and reason. This of course, being that without human expression, the native woman is considered more of a "savage…wild-eyed and magnificent," (Achebe quoting Conrad, p.255), possible even "bestial."

In an attempt to refute Achebe's proposed difference between the two women, C.P. Saravan said that Conrad perceived that native woman as a "gorgeous, proud, superb, magnificent, terrific, [and] fierce" person whose "human feelings [were] not denied" (Saravan, p.284). In comparing the two views, one must step back and consider that both views are only interpretations on what Conrad may have intended. Since no one can ever really know what his actual meanings were for these two women being so similar (in their movements), and yet so different (in their character), only individual explanation can be brought up. This in particular, is what brings me to question both Achebe and Saravan's points. By reorganizing Conrad's descriptive words, Saravan was able to propose that Conrad did not intend for the mistress to be perceived as the "savage counterpart" (Achebe, p.255). Yet, at the same time, both Saravan and Achebe each write about what they...

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