March 4, 2012
Criticism: Heart of Darkness
When one encounters words such as savage, monstrous, grotesque, ugly, and uncivilized in a story to describe people with no relation to them one might gloss over these terms in place of seeing the bigger picture. I’m referencing a phenomenon that is present when many encounter Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. A novella well known for its colonial expansionism and becoming aware with a man’s self deception, is now under examine. Was Joseph Conrad in fact a bloody racist? Indeed he was, throughout the novella there is much use of racial slang and unflattering depictions of Africans are in abundance. Yet the irony here is shown in Joseph Conrad’s rise to fame for his anti-imperialist depiction of the Europeans in the fight for Africa. Chinua Achebe, one of Conrad’s noted critics, was one of the first to putdown Conrad’s so called good intentions. With its controversial language and context of perceived African behavior, It’s hard to give a direct answer as to how Joseph Conrad is a racist. Therefore we must know that Joseph Conrad is in no way presenting himself as an expert of Africa or Africans which makes the language he uses to depict the africans as very arrogant. This is acknowledged by Caryl Phillips in his 2007 interview with Achebe where he realizes
I feel momentarily ashamed that I might have become caught up with this theme and subsequently overlooked how offensive this novel might be to a man like Chinua Achebe and to millions of other Africans. Achebe is right; to the African reader, the price of Conrad’s eloquent denunciation of colonization is the recycling of racist notions of the “dark” continent and her people (Phillips 134).
This comes to show how humans can lack sensitivity when there is an absence of commonality between different individuals. In this case, Caryl Phillips who after “[overlooking] how offensive [the] novel might be to a man [of color]” see’s how Joseph...