Heart of Darkness Racism

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Many commentators have seen Conrad’s representation of the “dark” continent and its people are also part of a racist tradition that has existed in Western literature for centuries. Most notably, Chinua Achebe said Heart of Darkness is inappropriate and he accused Conrad for racism because Conrrad refused to consider blacks an individual in his own way, and because Conrad used Africa as a shadow representative for dark and evil. Although the truth is evil and the immortal power of evil is the subject of Conrad, Africa is not merely representing that topic. Contrary to the “dark” continent of Africa, the “light” of isolated cities in the West, a contiguous position does not necessarily show that Africa is bad or the West is civilized. To me, civilization is where darkness really lies. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a work that expresses the racism is better than any other book I know of. There were, of course, hundreds of works written for the same purpose but most of them were too obvious and crude, so no one wants to read them today.

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In contrast, Conrad is clearly one of the great authors of modern fiction and, moreover, a talented storyteller. His contribution is naturally listed as another category – timeless literature – read, taught and always evaluated by serious academics. The position of Heart of Darkness today is indeed so solid that a Conrad’s scholar noted it as “among the half a dozen of the greatest short novels of English.” Heart of Darkness places Africa’s image as “another world,” an antithesis of Europe and therefore, of civilization, where the bragging and subtlety of mankind of finally amused victory and ridicule. The book begins in the River Thames, calm, serene, quiet “The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth” (part 1 page 2). But the story really happened in the Congo River, the true contrast of the Thames. The Congo River is clearly not the Emeritus River. No one offers to serve and does not receive any life-insurance support for the river. I have heard that “To the top of the river is like traveling back to the origin of the world.” Is Conrad saying about the differences of the Thames River and Congo River, good and bad? That’s right, but that’s not the point. What Conrad cares about is not the difference but the insidious trace of a common ancestor’s relationship. Because the River Thames is also “one of the darkest places of the earth.” It overcomes its darkness, of course, and is now exposing itself to peaceful light. But if it returned to visit the original bloodline, the Congo River, it would be at risk of hearing the bizarre reverberations and reminiscent of its own darkness that had been forgotten and became a collapsed victim under the reign reappear, revenge, insanity from unintentional beginnings.

The suggestive echoes create Conrad’s fabulous call for the African setting in Heart of Darkness. In the end, his style is just a fixed repetition, heavy with the rituals of two antitheses, one about silence and one about madness. For a long time, there is a commentator with a sharp look has mentioned Conrad’s “the affirmation of inexplicable”. That affirmation should not be dismissed as a stylistic flaw, but many of Conrad’s critics have a similar tendency because these raise serious issues about artistic goodwill. When a writer – while pretending to capture the scenes of the situations and their effects – is actually still working on the intriguing job that stunned the reader when it comes to flooding the words emotion and many other forms of fraud, the result is that many other things will be despised. In general, ordinary readers are able to detect and resist similarly discreet tricks. But Conrad knew how to choose the topic very well – the subject of warranties would not create a conflict between him and the readers’ psychological tendencies, or facilitate them to argue with them. He chose a role who provided pleasant myths.

However, the most impressive and descriptive passages in Heart of Darkness are those about humanity … The meaning of Heart of Darkness is at this point and the charm it leaves in European mind: “What makes you vibrate is just a reflection on their humanity – and like yours …Ugly.” After showing us the general portrait of Africa, half a page later Conrad began to focus on a clear example, giving us a rare description of an African man who is not just a slave and a pair of eyes twirling: “And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs. A few months of training had done for that really fine chap. He squinted at the steam-gauge and at the water-gauge with an evident effort of intrepidity—and he had filed teeth, too, the poor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer patterns, and three ornamental scars on each of his cheeks.” (part 2 page 4)

Everyone knows, Conrad is somewhat romantic. He may not have admired people who clapped and stamped their feet, but they were valuable in their position anyway, unlike “a dog in a parody of breeches”(shmoop). With Conrad, the thing that lies in their place is the most important thing. “Nobles – cannibals – in their positions,” he told us clearly. Tragedy begins when things start to leave their usual positions, as Europe leaves its security fortress between the policeman and the bread maker to sneak a peek into the Heart of Darkness.

At the end of Conrad’s story, surprisingly, a whole page to tell about an African woman had apparently been Mr. Kurtz’s wife and now presided over (if I had been given a Conrad interview) as a big secret when he has to leave. This woman is described in detail, although there is nothing difficult to predict, for two reasons. First, she is in her position and therefore can obtain Conrad’s special approval; Second, she satisfies a structural need for the story: a barbaric character to compare with the image of an elegant European woman appearing at the end of the story.

The author’s different attitude to this women has been conveyed in many ways both directly and delicately, so there is no need to say more. But what is perhaps the most important difference is the implication in the way the author gives a character expressions of human affection and deprives it of the character. Obviously the discussion of language on Africa’s “primitive souls” is not Conrad’s goal. Instead of voices they just “exchanged creaking growls” together, but most of them were too busy with the madness in them. However, there were two times in the book, when Conrad left his habit and gave the characters who used language, even English. The first time was when they were passionate about customary cannibalism: “Catch ’im,’ he snapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes and a flash of sharp teeth—‘catch ’im. Give ’im to us.’ ‘To you, eh?’ I asked; ‘what would you do with them?’ ‘Eat ‘im!’ he said curtly,” (part 2 page 7). The second time was when Kurtz died.

At first, it was mistaken for these times to be Conrad’s incredible enlightenment actions. In fact, they are his best attacks. In the case of all carnivores, the growl no one understands that they often exchange with each other as their own language, suddenly not enough for Conrad’s purpose, for the Europeans to see the longing for no words in every heart. When it was necessary to choose between describing unified idiots, with the sensational superiority of convincing when using clear evidence from their mouths, Conrad chose the second. As for the announcement of Mr. Kurtz’s death through “the black head in the doorway”, there is a good ending and is more appropriate for the horrifying story of the stubborn child of civilization, the one who offers its soul for the authority of darkness and “sitting on a high chair among the demons of the earth”, what is more so that its physical death is declared by the powers it has joined?

It can also be argued, of course, that the view of the Africans in the Heart of Darkness is only a fictional character, Marlow, and not only does he agree with this view, Conrad also brought it to sarcasm and criticism. Of course, Conrad seemed to have put a lot of effort into building many layers of isolation to isolate himself from the moral world of the story. For example, he uses a storyteller behind another storyteller. The storyteller is Marlow, but his narration brought to us through the view of the second person narrator. But if Conrad’s intention was to hang a clean partition between him and the narrator’s psychological/moral illness, this caution, it seemed to be a complete failure because he forgot to mention, though with subtlety or elaboration, to a different structure for readers to criticize the character’s actions and views. Conrad has enough strength to do so if he thinks it’s necessary. I saw Marlow and Conrad as two peacemakers – typically the similarities in their careers.

This kind of freedom, like Marlow and Conrad agreed in the story, touched many of the most subtle minds of the time in England, Europe, and the United States. It manifests itself in many different forms but almost always knows how to avoid a major question about equality between black and white skin. The important is that Conrad, who was always careful with the words, did not pay much attention to “distant relatives” by who demanded this connection. It is unacceptable that blacks require white contact. It was this demanding that scared Conrad, and fascinated, because “just the thought of their humanity — like yours” (part 2 page 4).

The point I want to emphasize that Joseph Conrad is a radical racist. This simple truth is blurred in the criticism of Conrad literature. It made it even clearer, that the policy of discriminating against Africans from white people was seen as a normal way of thinking – so ordinary that people did not recognize its symbols at all. Those who study Conrad will often say: Conrad didn’t pay much attention to Africa, he just wanted to talk about the destruction of a lonely and pathetic European mind. They will show us in his story, Conrad was more kind to the natives than to the Europeans, that the purpose of the story was to mock Europe’s civilization-cultural mission in Africa. A scholar about Conrad once told me that Africa was just a scene for him to talk about the mental breakdown of Kurtz’s character.

That is only partially true. Seeing Africa as a backdrop, it is not necessary to see Africans as a human factor. Seeing Africa as a philosophical battlefield, stripping away all visible humanity, Europeans desperately stepped in, filled with danger. Who could not see the ridiculous and unruly pride in the downgrade of Africa, just to play a role on which they witnessed the destruction of a mediocre mind from Europe? But that is not the point, It is worth mentioning that the loss of humanity from Africa and the Africans that this long-standing attitude has continued to nurture. And it must be asked that a work that praises this loss of humanity, a work that overcomes the personality of a human angle, should it be considered a great art? I answer: No, it can’t be. Here, I am talking about the most vulgarly unobtrusive book of prejudices and insults, which part of humanity has suffered from the cruelty in the past and, now, still continuing to endure on many aspects in many places. I am talking about a story in which the humanity of the black people is being questioned. Also, I can be challenged on the basis of reality. Anyway, Conrad followed the train to the Congo in 1890, when my parents weren’t born yet. How can I stand here, almost one hundred years after his death, and demand against him? I only answered that, as a conscious person, I would not accept a journey from a traveler, if only because I had not been able to go there. I did not trust the evidence that looked through his eyes once I suspected that they were as biased as Conrad’s eyes.

As I have led, the concept of Africa found in Conrad’s story does not come from him. It has been and remains an overarching conception of Africa in the imagination of Western civilization, which Conrad emphasized only through his extraordinary talent. For some reason, it would have been better to be illuminated through a psychological query, the West seems to have deep concerns about precariousness in their civilization, and wants always to be. Peace by bringing them in comparison with Africa. If Europe – a progressive civilization – looks back on Africa from time to time – still tied in primitive barbarian – then with a genuine belief it can say: It is thanks to God. If the Heart of Darkness character Kurtz obeyed the warning, the horror of his heart would be there, tied in the cave. But he had foolishly placed himself in the wild charm of the jungle, and god, darkness had found him.

The Western interests can be found from Africa once it has destroyed the old prejudices and began to look at Africa, not through the mist of distorting distortions and cheap mysteries, but merely a continent of people. To books that people read in schools, out of schools, to preaching churches to empty seats about the need to help ignorant people in Africa, I realize that there cannot be an easy optimism. And anyway, there’s something completely wrong when we have to bribe the West to get a good feeling for Africa. Although I have used the word “intentional” several times in this essay to define the Western concept of Africa, but what is happening at this point may be more like reflexive action than malevolent thought.

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Heart of Darkness Racism. (2020, May 12). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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