Comparison of Criticism on "Heart of Darkness"

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  • Topic: Africa, Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
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  • Published : October 2, 2011
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‘A Bloody Racist’: About Achebe’s View of Conrad
By: Cedric Watts

Claim: Achebe labels Conrad a ‘bloody racist’ who dehumanizes and degrades Africans. Rebuttal: Watts suggests that Heart of Darkness protests against the dehumanizing of Africans. • Of all the characters, Africans are portrayed as the happiest, healthiest and most vital. Quote? • Marlow describes the Africans as howling, leaping, spinning and making horrible faces. His belief that those actions depicted ancient and chaotic mindlessness is probable considering the time period (c. 1890) Marlow was a British traveler in the ‘uncivilized’ regions of Africa. • Watts describes Conrad as admirable for his humane treatment of blacks during this time period.

Claim: Achebe claims Conrad depicts Africa as ‘a place of negations…in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest’. Rebuttal: Watts points out many instances in the text when Africa and Europe (and their people) mirror each other. • Africans are referred to as ‘hollow men’. When Marlow returns to Europe, he describes its residents as ‘ignorant, sheep like people in the streets’. • Marlow describes the sound of the African drums beating as ‘a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild’ and then goes on to compare ‘ – and perhaps with as profound meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country’. • In the text, central Africa is referred to as the ‘heart of darkness’. London is described as the center of ‘a mournful (or brooding) gloom’. • Both the white Intended woman and the black mistress are portrayed as loyal to Kurtz, suffering loss. Each woman is described as ‘tragic’ and making the same gesture (outstretched arms).

Claim: Achebe calls Conrad ‘a purveyor of comforting myths’. Rebuttal: Watts believes Conrad purposefully discredits these myths. Myth #1: White civilization is morally superior to savagery. Watts points out occasions where white Europeans...
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