Heart of Darkness

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It has been speculated that Joseph Conrad, author of the novella Heart of Darkness, was a racist. Heart of Darkness takes place in Africa, in the late nineteenth century. The main character is Marlow, a Caucasian man from Belgium who is sent to work for an ivory company in Africa. Conrad depicts Marlow as a moderate man working for this company. The language and tone that Conrad uses to depict the native Africans in Heart of Darkness makes it clear that Joseph Conrad was, in fact, a racist.

 Conrad shows through his words that he believes that the native Africans were brutes and savages. He seems to believe that they were incapable of intellectual thought, that they were primarily controlled by their emotions and animal-like instincts. You can tell that Conrad had the same view of the Africans that was typical of the European attitudes and prejudices during that specific time period.

Throughout the novella, Conrad uses derogatory words such as “niggers”, “savages” and “brutes” to describe the native Africans. It is clear that Conrad does not see the native Africans as equal to himself or any other white person. In part one, Conrad refers to the natives as “ants”. This suggests that Conrad sees Marlow, the character he is using to tell his story as bigger than the African natives, with the power to stomp them out if he pleases. He sees Marlow as a god compared to them. In part one, Conrad has Marlow recount a story about his predecessor, Fresleven. Although Fresleven was slain by a native, Marlow stated that the village emptied, his “god-like remains” untouched. Conrad shows a belief that the white men should be treated like gods in this passage. Conrad even speaks of the “more civilized” native Africans, such as the man on the steamboat, in a patronizing, derogatory manner.

Joseph Conrad was definitely a racist. He was born and raised in a time where Europeans and Americans did not have much respect for the African people or culture. His ideas were roughly...
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