Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness Criticism

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Who gets to speak?
Speech and racism in colonial literature

As Dennis Leary said, racism isn’t born, it is taught. Racism is a weapon able to denigrate and dehumanize people. “Racism has always been present in colonization especially soon after the Europeans colonized the New World, the idea of racial distinctions developed” (LaRocque). Still until today, the colonial attitude especially towards black people is due because of economic power. Many postcolonial novels show themes such as racism, abuse of power, violence and speech to show the perspective of both sides of the conflict; the black and the white. Literature is a gift because it allows people to shape their perspectives of the world. In the novels Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad readers are able to see the postcolonial literature perspective in similar stories from different sides. This essay will analyze speech in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart in order to prove how Achebe’s novel exposes the racism found in Heart of Darkness.

Stories are important because they shape a person’s mind by influencing their lives. Stories arise out of a person’s belief and therefore cannot be disproven (“Comparing”). These both novels through stories portray issues in different societies and its complexity. Things Fall Apart is an amazing novel that shows the life of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, Africa. The novel surrounds the main character Okonkwo, a tragic hero who refuses to accept the fate of his dead father but rather self-preserves himself. Through Okonkwo many themes are portrayed dealing with violence, masculinity and the importance of religion for the Igbo tribe. Achebe’s novel shows in detail this society and thus the complexity of their way of living. Lgbo people are hardworking, religious, obedient and follow the calendar based on harvesting. This points the set of beliefs and systems that indigenous people of Africa have developed for their life’s (“Use”). Achebe also displays the role of men and women in society and how women are assign unimportant roles being men the power in the Igbo society. The importance of speech in the novel is prioritized as the author uses Igbo language thus creating a distinctive African story. It shows an image of Africa before colonialism changed it (“Use”).

In the other hand, Josephs Conrad’s novella acts more as a criticism comparing the civilized and the uncivilized. This shows the power of the white Europeans on their colonization in Africa. As its title, it shows the darkest side of humans by brutality and racism. The novella starts in the Nellie at the Thames River when the captain Charlie Marlow starts to narrate his stories about how he entered to Africa and his experiences. Marlow has always have passion for maps, exploring and adventure that is what begins his journey to a new and mysterious world; Africa. Through his stories we see the complexity of the African jungle and how this place influences the characters. The only thing that inspires and drives Marlow is his desire to meet Kurtz, an admirable and respected agent. Through his experiences we can see the racism towards the black people and how European colonizers treated them. By the actions of many characters we perceive the ivory smuggling, the ambition of power and money and the evil hidden in the jungle. Therefore it shows darkness behind inhumanity and injustice to others. How this darkness is so powerful that can destroy others and the person itself (Conrad).

In both novels we see the importance of speech. Speech acts as a symbol of racism and the distance of language. In Things Fall Apart speech is very important as Achebe uses lgbo words in the novel. “By incorporating Igbo words, rhythms, language and concepts into an English text about his culture, Achebe goes a long way to bridge a cultural divide” (“Language”). This shows the complexity of the African culture and the misunderstanding between cultures....
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