AP Literature and Composition
6 March 2013
An Image of Africa: Not Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’
People of dark skin have been wrongly discriminated against by racists for hundreds of years. From the first time Europeans stepped onto Africa and deemed black skin inferior till now, black people have been fighting for the right to be called equal. During the last century Africans have made great strides in fighting against racism. Many black leaders have risen up and confronted those racist against them. However, there are also times when people have gotten up in arms and have attacked others over misunderstandings. An example of this is Chinua Achebe’s essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’” in which he attacks Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In his essay, Achebe presents several reasons as to why Conrad is racist in his novel and why Conrad is a racist himself. Although Achebe is a celebrated author and is called the “father of African literature,” his reasons for calling Conrad and his book racist are unjust and flawed.
Although his essay is titled, “Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’” Achebe sets out to prove that both Conrad and his book are full of racism. To do this he opens his essay by stating that Heart of Darkness creates an image of Africa as the opposite of civilization; the opposite of Europe. Afterward, he makes several points to prove Conrad’s racism. Achebe heavily criticizes Conrad’s diction and questions the use of certain words. He states that Conrad enjoyed things that stayed in their place, implying that Conrad wanted black people to “stay in their place” under the white man. He says that because the main character, Marlow, is racist, Conrad is racist. He chastises Conrad’s depiction of the continent even though he has been there himself. Achebe even brings in different sources to prove Conrad’s racism, managing to use quotes from the missionary Albert Schweitzer to...