The Importance Of Racism In Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness follows the main character, Marlow, and his journey in search of Mr. Kurtz in the Congo to bring him back to England. Marlow eventually finds Mr. Kurtz and witnesses how he exploits the African people due to the fact that they worship him; Mr. Kurtz dies on the trip back. Conrad’s language throughout the novella is extremely descriptive of the natural landscape of the new land he is traveling around. Within the description of the new land he is witnessing, he also describes the people that live there. Conrad’s descriptions of the native people has become one of the most prevalent conversations surrounding his novella.
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, although published at the tail end of the 19th century, is one of the
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Achebe’s famous essay describes Conrad’s depictions of the African people in the novella as racist. In this essay he notoriously says, “ … Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. That this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work is due to the fact that white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked.” (Achebe 343). From this essay forward it seems that the academic discussion has continued and academics still argue to this day whether Conrad’s descriptions are because he was racist or whether these descriptions are merely representative of the time in which they were written. In another important essay response to Heart of Darkness, Edward Said not only discusses the novella but he responds to Achebe’s essay challenging whether or not Conrad’s words represent overt racism as Achebe states. Said claims that when writing about the natives and their incapability of independence, Conrad's words were caused by his lack of view of the alternatives to imperialism (Svensson 11). Morgan Svensson states this was also because Conrad did not live to see what happened when imperialism came to end (Svensson 12). Said claims that through Heart of Darkness “Conrad allows readers today to see an Africa that is not made up of dozens of European colonies, even if he himself might have had a very limited idea of what Africa was like” (Said qtd. in Svensson

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