Heart of Darkness: Ignorance and Racism
Uploaded by Admin on Nov 21, 1999
Joseph Conrad develops themes of personal power, individual responsibility, and social justice in his book Heart of Darkness. His book has all the trappings of the conventional adventure tale - mystery, exotic setting, escape, suspense, unexpected attack. Chinua Achebe concluded, "Conrad, on the other hand, is undoubtedly one of the great stylists of modern fiction and a good story-teller into the bargain" (Achebe 252). Yet, despite Conrad's great story telling, he has also been viewed as a racist by some of his critics. Achebe, Singh, and Sarvan, although their criticisim differ, are a few to name.
Normal readers usually are good at detecting racism in a book. Achebe acknowledges Conrad camouflaged racism remarks, saying, "But Conrad chose his subject well - one which was guaranteed not to put him in conflict with psychological pre-disposition..." (Achebe, 253). Having gone back and rereading Heart of Darkness, but this time reading between the lines, I have discovered some racism Conrad felt toward the natives that I had not discovered the first time I read the book. Racism is portrayed in Conrad's book, but one must acknowledge that back in the eighteen hundreds society conformed to it. Conrad probably would have been criticized as being soft hearted rather than a racist back in his time.
Conrad constantly referred to the natives, in his book, as black savages, niggers, brutes, and "them", displaying ignorance toward the African history and racism towards the African people. Conrad wrote, "Black figures strolled out listlessly... the beaten nigger groaned somewhere" (Conrad 28). "They passed me with six inches, without a glance, with the complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages" (Conrad 19). Achebe, also, detected Conrad's frequent use of unorthodox name calling, "Certainly Conrad had a problem with niggers. His in ordinate love of that word itself should be of interest to psychoanalysts" (Achebe 258).
Conrad uses Marlow, the main character in the book, as a narrator so he himself can enter the story and tell it through his own philosophical mind. Conrad used "double speak" throughout his book. Upon arriving at the first station, Marlow commented what he observed. "They were dying slowly - it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation lying confusedly in the greenish gloom" (Conrad 20). Marlow felt pity toward the natives, yet when he met the station's book...