African Colonialism In Conrad And Things Fall Apart

Great Essays
African Colonialism in Conrad and Achebe
In the minds of many Europeans, Africa was known as the “Dark Continent,” not because of the color of the skin of its inhabitants, but because large sections of the interior were simply unknown. By the late 19th century, British imperialism was beginning to penetrate into some of those unknown regions, bringing European government, religion, and attitudes to people otherwise deemed “savage.” The effect of this process of colonialism has been famously documented in two widely different novels, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1959). Both of these writers, to great extent, portray the negative effects that colonialism had on the African people, with Conrad
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In the minds of many, the way that Conrad and others portrayed Africans was racist, paternalistic, and arrogant. Indeed, Conrad’s description of Africans does seem to fit the idea of racism: “The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us—who could tell? […] They howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces” (Conrad 64). Here is a description of a people almost animalistic and Conrad, as a product of his time, is painting an African landscape that “epitomized savagery” (Okafor 19). Achebe himself would criticize such depictions as racist, as it portrays African people “in a delirious state of frenzy” that eliminates their “reason, self-control, and…humanity” (Lawtoo …show more content…
Both authors ultimately suggest that colonialism is a negative force, destructive on both individual and society. However, for Conrad, the destructive power of colonialism was on the colonizer, that when “isolated” from European civilization, “they would degenerate into abominable savagery and become beasts of unspeakable lust” (Okafor 19). Kurtz, the mysterious rogue agent, has descended into such savagery as the result of his being cut off from “civilization.” Kurtz has, in effect, gone native, and Marlow has come to believe that Kurtz must be mad. Indeed, much of Kurtz’s madness is sexual in nature, as if that which was to be feared the most by Europeans was falling under the spell of an African woman. Kurtz specifically “lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts” (Conrad 107). The object of his lusts, further, is a “wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman. […] She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent” (113). Kurtz’s African mistress becomes symbolic of the danger that colonialism wrought in Africa, not to its inhabitants, but to those who sought to bring European structure and

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