Comparing Joseph Conrad and Charles Marlow's Work on Racism

Topics: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe Pages: 3 (965 words) Published: November 10, 2010
Racism in Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad’s work might be looked at in different perspectives, such as a critical work of imperialism, or might even be considered an ironic novel with racism portrayed in it, due to the way Charles Marlow perceives and describes all there is around him. I personally believe that a racist is that one who firmly believes in the inferiority of people because of different factors such as skin color, culture, language, etc; or mainly those who participate in acts that strengthen this belief, in order to discriminate others. Then, it would not be totally correct to call him a racist for the fact that he is not ignoring the ‘reality’ of things, but rather describing and interpreting them in his particular way. It is not easy to judge his work and point of view, since it clearly seems to have characteristics of both perspectives. Marlow does use derogatory terms such as “niggers”, “prehistoric” and “savages” in order to refer to the Africans; this reflects his somewhat racist attitude towards them, since these words sound rather insulting, besides he hardly shows that the Africans have an equal position as that of the Europeans in his writing. Marlow compares the Africans much to animals, by saying that they are [like] “creatures” and that their faces are “like grotesque masks”, and even thinks of a fireman as an “improved specimen”. Chinua Achebe describes Conrad as a “talented, tormented man” who degrades Africans to a variety of names while at the same time believes in a shared kinship between Marlow and the natives, (Achebe 336). And Achebe states that one example of Conrad’s rare descriptions of an African who is not “just limbs or rolling eyes” is the following: “And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler. He was there below me and, upon my word, to look at him was edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat walking on...
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