Posted at 11.01.2018
More than a century following its publication, it is still unclear whether Conrad's Heart of Darkness acts to perpetuate or dismantle racism. Considered one of the writer to have had the most impact during the 20th century, he is looked at by many as racist due mainly to this novel. One of his greatest critics is Chinua Achebe who points out in "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of darkness" how Joseph Conrad supported racism and colonization. To bolster his quarrels, Achebe stated that while he's indeed "one of the biggest stylists of modern fiction and a good storyteller", Heart of darkness should not be considered a masterpiece of design. But not everyone gets the same opinion and it can be demonstrated that wording is, on the other hand, not racist and that it actually criticizes american views. By utilizing a narrative frame Conrad distinguishes himself from the racist people in his novel. One must also remember that Heart of Darkness was written at a time where racism was quite typical. We must evaluate this words within the right period of time. Finally
When reading for the very first time Heart and soul of Darkness it could be obvious that it is indeed a racist novel and because the account of Marlow seems a lot like Conrad's story, one could think that the author is racist as well. Instead Conrad uses the frame story expressing his impression, and views on imperialism. With occasions of revelation the guy can show the impact of colonization on natives "I've seen the devils of assault, and the devil of greed, and the devil of hot desire: but, by all celebrities! these were strong, lusty, redeyed devils, that swayed and drove men-men, I tell you. " (Part 1, Page 13). But to keep an authentic setting up he creates the character Marlow that is in favor of imperialism, and throughout the storyline, Africans are described by Marlow himself from a european viewpoint "I had formed then, as you bear in mind, just came back to London. . . after a great deal of Indian Ocean, Pacific, China Seas - a normal medication dosage of the East - six years roughly, and I was loafing about, hindering you fellows in your projects and invading your homes, just as though I had received a heavenly mission to civilize you. " (P. 6). Even though it may well not be clear, Conrad uses the narrative structure to, at the same time identify himself from other racist character types in the storyline, and to point out his opinions. This is probably what confuses many readers
"They grabbed what they could get with regard to that which was to be got. It was just robbery with assault, aggravated murder on the great range, and men heading at it blind - as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the planet earth, which mainly means the taking it from those people who have a different appearance or just a little flatter noses than ourselves, is not really a lovely thing when you consider it too much. "
Criticism of imperialism
When reading Heart of Darkness one might be chocked or even offended, like Achebe, by the repetition of the term " nigger" throughout the novel. Many Images of Africa can be viewed as racist, but Heart of Darkness was written at a time where the use of the word "nigger" was quite typical and didn't have a negative connotation. One must interpret this book from a spot of view that corresponds to the time period, not from a modern point of view. Making Marlow appear racist and ignorant about African civilization and their culture is actually a way to ridiculise the western world and his culture. It shows mocks westernizers during the 20th century.
Due to the controversy produced by postcolonial discourse, and the resultant wealth of material on Heart and soul of Darkness it is necessary to filter down this issue as much as possible, nevertheless that same controversy demands a synopsis in other to represent the plurality of critical voices, within which mould I will situate my point and finally study the question of the author's racism or lack of it.
The critical postcolonial approach to Heart of Darkness as a racist words was first described by the Nigerian Writer, Chinua Achebe in a lecture at the university of Massachusetts in 1975. Regarding to Achebe, ". . . Center of Darkness projects the image of Africa as 'the other world', the antithesis of Europe and for that reason of civilisation " (2). He commenced with a moving comment on the average westerner's stereotyping of African culture and the knowledgeable ignorance of the supposedly enlightened, making an example of the British professor of Background, Hugh Trevor-roper, who insisted that Africa had no background and got a swipe at the careful binary pairings in Heart of Darkness. The environment of the primordial Congo basin against a tranquil Thames river - the previous supposedly bad and the latter good, the evoked African atmosphere of misconception and puzzle - and therefore of the ritualistic and wicked, against an enlightened Christian European countries, the 'antithetical' choice of diction and phrases, [. . . ] "steady, ponderous, fake-ritualistic [. . . ], one about silence and the other about frenzy [. . . ] " (3); he quoted from webpages 103 and 105 of the American Library edition of Center of Darkness to establish his point thus: "It was the stillness of any implacable drive brooding over an inscrutable intent" [and] "The machine toiled along slowly and gradually on the advantage of a black and incomprehensible frenzy"
Achebe taken care of that the "most interesting and revealing passages in Center of Darkness are about people" (3), that is, about characterisation. Even though passage he quoted about Marlow's profile of the journey down the Congo river is not explicit on characterisation - which is strictly the point!, I'd like to replicate it completely to look at his implications:
We were wanderers over a prehistoric earth, by using an earth that used the facet of an unknown world. We're able to have fancied ourselves the first of men taking ownership of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil. But instantly, as we struggled round a flex, there would be a glimpse of hurry wall surfaces, of peaked grass-roofs, a burst of yells, a whirl of dark-colored limbs a mass of hands clapping, of ft stamping, of body swaying, of eye rolling, under the droop of heavy and motionless foliage. The machine toiled along slowly but surely on the advantage of the black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us inviting us - who could tell? We were take off from the understanding of our surroundings; we glided previous like phantoms, pondering secretly appalled, as sane men would be before a keen outbreak in a madhouse. We're able to not understand because we were too much and may not remember because we were exploring in the night of first age groups, of those ages that have died, leaving hardly a sign - no memories.
The earth felt unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of the conquered monster, but there - there you might look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were - No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid encounters, but what trilled you was the idea of their humanity - like yours - the thought of your distant kinship with this untamed and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you'll say to yourself that there was in you just the faintest track of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being truly a meaning in it that you - you so remote from the night of first ages - could comprehend (52).
It is easy to see characterisation in none characterisation in this passing; this is the implicit dynamics of the sort of characterisation that is carried out here. The African heroes can be found as a kind of absence. They don't think, speak, do not behave like normal humans but nevertheless contain the physical features of the kinds - that is certainly "the fascination it (Center of Darkness) retains over the Western head" (4) that is exactly what troubles Conrad matching to Achebe, this is the excitement - this 'unattractive' kinship to the human being (there's also passages where Conrad compares those to apes - a popular past-time of imperial Victorian Europe), which is the "horror, the horror" for his early on European visitors, for whom he affirmed and consolidated the wildest fantasies and misconceptions about Africans. He could be sure of non-contradiction therefore from those visitors. And this was why, matching to Achebe, the racist dynamics of the novel was never questioned until he drew focus on it. In addition, if the above mentioned passage were to be deconstructed, if we were to 'wayward' the written text, it breaks down into refined binary oppositions and may read something similar to this: 'we were [modern] wanderers on the prehistoric earth, with an earth that used the facet of an unknown planet [as against our civilised world] [. . . ] Once we round a bend there would be a glimpse of dash walls, of peaked grass-roofs [as opposed to our sophisticated Victorian architecture]' etc (52). There are also those echoes of interpretation which negates the humanity of the Africans in the passing. The Africans were the 'first men' - something baser than individual, primordial; sort of extinct human dinosaur, with out a ethnic space of their own, re-discovered, categorised and devote their place for his or her own good; a gelatinous mass of monstrous and senseless limbs, contorted systems and rolling sight living partly on trees ( in the foliage) and partly in crude lean-tos, which it was good game to consider port-shots at by the colonising imperial vitality in order to instil a arbitrary discipline of hot lead when necessary.