Achebe’s “An Image of Africa : Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” Essay Example
Achebe’s “An Image of Africa : Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” Essay Example

Achebe’s “An Image of Africa : Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” Essay Example

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  • Published: August 9, 2017
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Achebe’s “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” ( The Massachusetts Review. 18 ( 1977 ) : 782 – 94 ) expresses a passionate expostulation to Conrad’s point of position and portraiture of Africa and Africans in his fresh Heart of Darkness. Achebe’s novel. Things Fall Apart. can be considered the direct resistance to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and is seen to as a challenge on Conrad’s western positions. I shall research the cogency in Achebe’s “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” with respects to linguistic communication. word picture. faith and civilization. Other sentiments from critical readings will besides be included and referenced to the two novels ( Things Fall Apart & A ; Heart of Darkness ) . Achebe felt that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness “others” Africa and Africans. when he says “others” he means that it represents the Africans as a colonized people who have small “common sense” and no authorization.

Furthermore it shows them as a separate race or species to farther exemplify how they were treated as animate beings and barbarians. The term “common sense” used earlier besides illustrates how Achebe took offense to the Western political orientations in that “common sense” is a term invented by Westerners. “Common sense” is the general term one uses for Western beliefs and values but other civilizations ( particularly African civilizations ) have non been included as a portion of this nomenclature. African civilizations are. in fact. criticized by the term “common sense” . which one time once more Achebe took offense to. Achebe felt


that Heart of Darkness was besides a manner of “writing back to the centre” in that it represented the Western people or Settlers as the dominant and superior force. to Achebe it was an disaffection of the Africans and Africa. Heart of Darkness. hence displaced the Africans in the novel ; alternatively of them looking good and familiar. they were distanced from the reader. Hence. one can see how Achebe was a strong truster in the “Postcolonial Theory” whereby he largely challenged but besides reflected upon modern European colonization.

Brantlinger’s paper discusses the different positions on colonization by explicating five differents stances taken. Harmonizing to Brantlinger the abolitionist stance ( despite its good purposes ) pitied the Africans and tried to contend for the Africans. but at the same clip it did non happen to them that Africans were besides intelligent people who could contend their ain conflicts. It was therefore seen that the emancipationists excessively. were handling the Africans as inferior. His treatment of the explorer’s stance illustrates how the adventurers exploited Africa and destroyed its people because the adventurers saw the Africans as a sub-race of barbarians who had small to no importance. Brantlinger besides shows how scientists saw the Africans as a separate species to worlds and that Africans were thought to be animate beings. Scientists theorised. through Social Darwinism. that the Africans would either hold to last of sucumb. To them the Africans were expendable.

To Brantlinger the missionaries considered the Africans as a race of heathens and pagans who needed to be converted to th

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“Good Faith” . Christianity. and they did non see that the Africans may really good hold had their ain faith and set of beliefs. Furthermore. Brantlinger illustrated how the Western authors portrayed Africans as a sub-race of barbarians ( or as an inferior group of people ) who needed commiseration and a push in the right way towards their Western ways. His statements. ” The changeless association of Africa with the cold force of the slave trade did much to darken its landscape even during the romantic period. ” and ” By mid-century. the success of the anti-slavery motion. the impact of the great adventurers. and the amalgamation of racialist and evolutionary philosophies in the societal scientific disciplines had combined to give the British populace a widely shared position of Africa that demanded imperialisation on moral. spiritual and scientific evidences.

It is this position that I have called the myth of the Dark Continent” are premier illustrations of how he see people to hold wrong impressions about Africa and Africans. His positions are extremely suited to Achebe’s “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” in that they show how a white. westernised individual sees the same racism eminent in todays literature as Achebe it sees in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. merely Brantlinger does non straight attack any one specific book or individual. Alternatively Brantlinger presents his position in a factual and justified mode which farther helps back up Achebe because he makes it easier to believe and understand him when he uses factual information instead than entirely his sentiments.

Brookes wrote a paper on how certain stereotypes of Africa have been created and how they are perpetuated in newspapers today. Headlines such as. “Why give life-blood to this bosom of darkness? ” were analysed and harmonizing to Brookes this headline and others like it “… consequence in the foreground processing of Africa as violent. inhibitory and helpless… They set up antonyms where Africa is on the one side and is held up against a criterion which it seemingly does non meet” . Brookes’ analysis and sentiments are extremely relevant in that she illustrates how certain stereotypes and thoughts on Africa have become 2nd nature and are even printed in histories which are supposed to be factual remembrances of events.

Brookes does so by discoursing certain gramatical. diction and representation tendencies associated with Africa and this shows that these ideals are incorrect and racialist. one should non be allowed to perpetuate such wrong stereotype of Africans. At the same clip Brookes’ paper can besides discredit Achebe. because it shows that possibly Conrad’s ground for Heart of Darkness being a racialist novel is because certain stereotypes are printed in the imperativeness each twenty-four hours and he merely did non cognize any better.

Achebe’s article. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” . shows that Achebe feels that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is racist and it perpetuates a certain wrong position on Africans. He is offended by Conrad’s racism and insensitiveness towards Africans. ” Heart of Darkness pojects the image of Africa as “the other universe. ” the antithesis of Europe

and hence of civilisation. a topographic point where man’s vaunted intelligence and polish are eventually mocked by exultant bestiality. ” Here Achebe shows precisely how he feels about Heart of Darkness. Achebe sees Marlowe and Conrad as the same individual and hence because Marlowe. the storyteller in Heart of Darkness. is nescient and racist… Achebe immediatly assumes that Conrad holds the same positions. Achebe feels that Conrad represents the settlers as superior slightly god-like and that the Africans in Heart of Drakness are shown as barbarians. pagans and heathens and they are seen to be inferior.

Not merely is this perceptual experience of Africans conveyed but Africa is besides seen as a dark and mystical topographic point which threatens everything that is foreign. Furthermore Achebe feels that Heart of Darkness creates the feeling that Africa infects the Western people and drives them mad. as happened to Kurtz: “Consequently Africa is something to be avoided merely as the image has to be hidden off to safeguard the man’s jeopardous unity. Keep off from Africa or else! Mr Kurtz of Heart of Darkness should hold heeded that warning … But he unwisely exposed himself to the wild irresistable temptingness of the jungle and lo! the darkness found him out. ” Achebe besides feels that Conrad is besides seeking to change over people to his racialist ways and infect them with his “xenophobia” ( fright of aliens ) . Achebe non merely sees Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and is offended by it but he is besides offended by the fact that cipher has challenged Heart of Darkness and its racism. but they praise and analyze this book alternatively.

C. P. Sarvan besides wrote a review on Heart of Darkness and Achebe’s article. He was. nevertheless. far less utmost than Achebe. Furthermore. he looks at the narrative from both sides and he weighs up both the Authors’ strengths and failings. Sarvan discusses how in Heart of Darkness the settlers are really corrupt and rotten to the nucleus and alternatively of Africa being shown as an wholly bad and deep dark continent. Sarvan sees some type of of set used to foreground how the settlers were deranged and non at all pure. as the African people were. Sarvan quotes a critic who said. “Africa per per Se is non the subject of Heart of Darkness. but it is used as a locale symbol for the really nucleus of an ‘accursed inheritance” .

This quotation mark along with Sarvan’s sentiment that “the narrative may be seen as an fable. the journey stoping with the drab realization of the darkness of man’s bosom. ” demo how in Heart of Darkness Conrad does non merely desire to discredit Africa and demo to be a dark black hole which is to be feared. instead that it really illustrates how the settlers could larn goodness and pureness from the Africans. In contrast to Achebe. Sarvan besides sees Marlowe and Conrad as wholly separate people and he thinks that Marlowe’s positions are non needfully the same as Conrad’s. Sarvan considers all the grounds and he concludes that in some parts of Heart of

Darkness Conrad does be given to project racist position points. but by the same item Conrad besides criticises the Settlers. their manner of life and their deficiency of ethical motives and moralss.

In both Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness there is certain linguistic communication and enunciation which is used. the linguistic communication used conveys a certain sentiment and attitude toward what is being said. If one is to look at Brooke’s paper it can be seen that certain words are used to convey certain images of Africa. and at times even a certain gramatical construction is associated with Africa. If one looks at the linguistic communication used in Heart of Darkness certain words can be picked out and seen as racialist but besides there are words which are non racist towards the Africans and instead they discredit the settlers. For illustration: “The Man seemed immature – about a boy – but you know with them it’s difficult to state. ” ( Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics 2000. pg35. line 21 ) . Here one can see this to be a racist remark as it creates a distance between the Africans and the settlers. but it can besides be seen as a absolutely guiltless and nescient remark because it’s natural to hold problem understanding that which you do non cognize.

A really similar remark is made in the same novel. nevertheless it is made with respect to the white work forces. it’s as follows “… white work forces being so much alike at a distance that he could non state who I might be. ” ( Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics 2000. pg 33. line 27 ) In Things Fall Apart there are besides times when it can be criticised for the linguistic communication used – Achebe describes the white missionaries as “four eyes” and here it is further illustrated that the Africans are now happening that which they are non familiar with troublesome and difficult to understand. So when one weighs the two different descriptions from Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness up it can be seen that certain linguistic communication can be seen as racialist even if that is non the purpose.

Furthermore when Conrad writes. “Fine chaps – man-eaters – in their topographic point. ” ( Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics 2000. pg 61. line 6 ) you can both criticise and congratulations this quotation mark. Although it does distance the Africans when he says “their place” and it could be seen as dissing to name the Africans “cannibals” . Conrad besides presents the Africans in a friendly mode and he shows some sort of affinity with them when he says “Fine fellows” . Finally. there are many times when Conrad uses contemptuous linguistic communication with respects to the Africans but he besides uses linguistic communication which praises them. so Achebe is non wholly right when he says that Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness “parades in the most coarse manner biass and insults…”

In Things Fall Apart one is able to larn about the African faith and at the same clip the Western faith is presented to the reader.

neither is said to be right nor incorrect. The advantages and disadvantages of both faiths are expressed to the reader and bias is non shown towards either faith. In Heart of Darkness nevertheless. merely the Western faith is shown and it is non even considered that the African Savages may perchance hold a absolutely good set of ethical motives and a nice faith. One is exposed to the Western faith and it is seen as the be all and stop all.

The characters in Heart of Darkness are besides portrayed to merely believe in one certain faith and that faith ( Christianity ) is the “saviour” of the primitive. barbarian Africans. For illustration this can be seen when Conrad writes. ” Something like an envoy of visible radiation. somethng like a lower kind of apostle… ‘weaning those nescient 1000000s from their horrid ways. ’…” ( Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics 2000. pg 28. line 17 ) . Brantlingers paper farther illustrates this every bit good as shows that this was a Victorian ideal. Hence. with respect to religion the lone faith truly shown in Heart of Darkness is Christianity and it is non questioned or compared to an African faith. as the two faiths in Things Fall Apart are.

Culture in both Achebe and Conrad’s novels is explored on two foreparts: an African forepart and a Western forepart. In Things Fall Apart the more dominant civilization is of class the African civilization. One is introduced to the African Umuofia folk and thereafter they are presented with the many different civilizations and beliefs of that folk and good some of the other African folks. In Things Fall Apart. one is besides shown a brief position of how the Africans proverb and came to be portion of Western civilization. but one is besides shown how the African civilization really contains alot of sense. ethical motives and moralss. It can be seen that African civilization it is non merely a group of people shouting out foreign shrieks on shore as they are shown in Heart Of Darkness.

Furthermore. in Heart of Darkness the Western civilization is the dominant 1. and in contrast to Things Fall Apart non merely is there really small apprehension of the other civilization ( African Culture ) but besides at that place seems to be no attempt from the characters in Heart of Darkness to even get down to understand or hold on the African civilization: “In the empty enormousness of the Earth. sky. and H2O. there she was ( the Gallic ship of the line ) inexplicable firing into a continent. ” ( Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics 2000. pg 30. line 33 ) This quotation mark can besides be used to exemplify how the settlers were seen as deranged and their civilization fickle.

The word picture in the two novels is really different when talking about either the Africans of the Westerners. In Things Fall Apart the African is characterised as an intelligent being who has a sense of right and incorrect and they contain the devisings of Westerner’s human yarn ; maternal inherent aptitude towards one’s kid. the thrust to

win. the cognition of right and incorrect. penalty for those who commit offenses. regard for seniors etc. Furthermore. in Things Fall Apart the Westerners are portrayed in a just visible radiation. despite their exloitation of the Umuofia folk and their thoughts are taken into consideration and the benifits are thaught about… this shows the Umuofia to be logical and just people. Whereas in Heart of Darkness the Westerners are the lone 1s who are considered to be intelligent. despite them besides being shown as impure and unfair: “hairdresser’s dummy” ( Heart of Darkness. Penguin Classics 2000. pg 36. line31 ) and “I Lashkar-e-Taiba him run on. this papier-mache Mephistopheles. and it seemed to me that if I tried I could jab my index through him. and would happen nil indoors but a small loose soil. possibly. ”

The Africans in Heart Of Darkness are non portrayed as worlds. instead they’re seen as animate beings. but at the same clip they can besides be seen as more human than the imhumane settlers because they are compassionate and they aren’t empty inside ( refer to “I allow him run on…” above ) . The Africans are besides seen as the underdogs being destroyed by the white work forces who merely attention for money. Overall in Things Fall Apart. the portraiture of the Africans in is that they’re worlds with ethical motives and a good steady civilization and the portraiture of the Westerners is that they’re besides human with ethical motives and their ain civilization. In Heart of Drakness. the Africans are weak. crude barbarians victimised by the strong. impure White adult male with no moral fiber.

The links between the books Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness can be seen as a tendency throughout Booke’s and Brantlinger’s Papers. Both find that in our societies there are certain thoughts associated with Africa ; viz. darkness. enigma. savageness. unenlightenment. deficiency of intelligence and resourses every bit good as good solid faith and moral fiber. and eventually the thought that Africa infects the remainder of the universe with all its dark and unsafe qualities. Each twenty-four hours these thoughts are passed through our encephalons and drummed into our caputs. to such a grade that the bulk of us no longer question their being right or incorrect. Achebe found that in Heart of Darkness. Conrad discussed and displayed these racialist ideals in utmost sums and Achebe felt the racism Conrad openly showed was unacceptable. Surely society played a function in this uneducated premise made about Africa and its people when it allowed for such racialist ideals to be printed in the mundane imperativeness.

In Conclusion it can be asid that Achebe did hold ground for his resistance to Heart of Drakness and its portraiture of Africa and Africans. It must be considered. nevertheless. that possibly Conrad’s unwilled racism was merely the merchandise of ignorance. He was wrong in conveying the Africans as barbarians. but at the clip the book was written Conrad was likely blinded by his society and its stereotypes. Furthermore. his true purpose in Heart of Darkness was to demo the Westerners deficiency of moral fiber

by contrasting them against the Africans and demoing how the Westerners exploited the Africans. Achebe’s description of Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” in “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” was non wholly true. Conrad did include some racism in Heart of Drakness but it was non knowing and it was surely non utmost plenty to name him a “thoroughgoing racist” .