Conrad: Blatant Racist or Political Satirist?
Uploaded by Admin on Jan 16, 2001
There have been many critics, predominantly Chinua Achebe, that have cast a cloak of racism upon the back of Joseph Conrad. Those authors base these allegations upon the novel Heart of Darkness, calling it a vile and most ungodly novel that only seeks to set the black race as a footstool of the white race. However, one must realize that there is a much deeper meaning to the novel than that of blatant racism. It is, in fact, a connection with the past that shows both the mindset, as well as the ignorance, of those who colonized Africa in the late nineteenth century.
The entire novel is a boxed narrative, thus we can see into what the storyteller truly feels about his own experience rather than an third person analysis of what the protagonist does. In this case, Charlie Marlow retells his story of how he encountered a force that could only be described as “The horror, the horror.” It is, indeed, a catharsis of sorts, but not only from Marlow, but for Conrad as well. After all, Conrad did partake in such an adventure as this before he became an author, therefore the reader must comprehend that these words are not only of the protagonist, if Marlow can be truly called that, but also of Conrad.
The first example of Marlow’s opinion towards colonial Africa occurs when his ship passes a French man of war. The man of war is shelling the coast because the men claim there were “enemies” in the bushes. The ideals of the Company were geared more towards the pacification of the tribes as well as good commerce with them, yet in the midst of this goodwill, a war ship has come to “pacify” the natives. Conrad indicates a type of doublespeak within the doctrine of the Company for which Marlow works. The actions of imperialism that existed in the nineteenth century are more in tune what Marlow sees, rather than the doctrine of civilizing the tribes that he has heard. In this act, Conrad does display his satirical capabilities by showing the hypocritical mindset of Europe that existed through the span of more than 400 years.
Perhaps the most recognized point of imperialism in the book is when Marlow reaches the Outer Station. He is surrounded by the natives who have been enlisted as slave labor. Around him are great holes, filled with broken machinery. This appears...