Heart of Darkness vs Seasons of Migrations to the North

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“Place and displacement are crucial features of post-colonial discourse.” (Bill Ashcroft et al , The Post-Colonial Studies Reader). Explore the ways in which ‘place’ in its broadest sense affects both colonial and post-colonial writing in ‘The Heart of Darkness’ and ‘Season of Migration to the North’.

In this essay, I will be discussing how place shapes individuals and their identity. The geographical location in both novellas focuses on the northern and southern hemisphere divide between Europe and Africa. This fits in with the colonial history that occurred in that particular time period whereby Africa was colonised by England. ‘Heart of Darkness’ is a novel based on the times of colonisation and ‘Season of Migration to the North’ is based on post-colonialism. In that sense, Africa and England somewhat reflect each other due to the certain similarities and differences that both cultures imbibe which puts forward the concept of alterity. Moreover, place has a symbolic underlying meaning which is identified through the identity of characters. Marlow and the unnamed narrator are ultimate characters in both novellas who are in search for the true identity of Kurtz and Saeed. They follow a quest that turns in to waste when they realise the ghastly nature of the truth that appals them. This reflects the high ideas of colonialism being meaningless and being filled with corruption and deceit. The symbolism in these novellas are supported by moral and psychological views that are exerted throughout. Alienation is a key concept in the novellas as they symbolise dislocation. To reveal the consequences of displacement, Conrad implemented evident racism and Salih employed misogyny that later on created criticisms.

The idea of control represents both continents in these novels. Europe seemed to have a dominant control over Africa and because of this Europeans attempted to impose their failed morals upon the Africans. Both novellas portray Africa to be a very beautiful place. In ‘Heart of Darkness’, it is described with picturesque imagery such as “colossal jungle” and “a blue sea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist” (pg. 15). But, Conrad also quoted it to be the “Dark Continent”. Therefore, the scenery within Africa seems to be attractive but at the same time has negative associations attached to it. And in ‘Season of Migration to the North’, Sudan is illustrated with in-depth imagery of a flat landscape with date and palm trees, “like that palm tree, a being with a background, with roots, with a purpose” (pg. 2). Such imagery represents Africa as a very peaceful place with a vast landscape which is destroyed by the invasion of Europeans. Conrad seems to see England as “one of the dark places of the Earth”, possibly to show how Europe is a place filled with secrecy.

Even though there is evident political conflict between both places, they also compliment each other. This is supported by the quote by Frantz Fanon, “Europe is Africa's creation”. Colonialism imposes discourse on the colonized land but without exploitation, Europe wouldn‘t have super power countries. In ‘Heart of Darkness’, there is a battle between the Europeans and Africans as Europeans ridicule African culture because what the Europeans don’t understand, they frown upon, such as cannibalism. They referred to many of the Africans as “cannibals”. But what the Europeans did not understand was that the “cannibalistic incorporation” (Otto Rank) was a way of incorporating power and strength upon themselves. Therefore, Africans carried out such acts of cannibalism. However, at the same time, both Africans and Europeans are given equal status by Conrad as both remain as nameless figures. Both Africans and Europeans are represented as the “devil”. Africans who have no knowledge and have a fear of the unknown are described as devils who have “violently dilated nostrils” (pg. eighteen) and who have “grotesque masks” (pg. 16). And, Europeans who seemed to be...
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