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Racism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

By Robiah-Adawiyah Sep 16, 2014 3631 Words
Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
Accomplished By:
Robiah Al Adawiyah/11320022
Racism is a debatable term among people around the world. The practice of racism is cannot be stopped until this day. There are stiil some racisms occur toward some races, especially in black people race. Literature is one of medium to deliver idea, opinion, feeling or critics. The existence of literary such as novella is a medium to understand the events and problem such as racism that occur in society. The emergence of literary work cannot be separated from the sociological aspect of the author. Joseph Conrad is one of a maritim author who often write literary works based on his experience. One of his literary work is a novella under the tittle Heart of Darkness that containts some problem in daily life. One of major theme in this novella is racism. The novela tells how the forms of racism given by white people whose position is a colonial to native African who are black people race. The purpose of this article is to give the understanding about the relation between the racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and its relation with the real condition of society in Congo Africa inj 19th century. In this paper, the writer analyzes three types of racism in Heart of Darkness novella; discrimination, Prejudice and segregation. Keyword: racism, literature, Heart of Darkness

A. Introduction
Literature is a part that never ends to be written and discussed. Literature is an image which potrays the problems of real life. Literature is one medium to express the condition of real life. Through literature people can deliver the ideas, opinion, feeling or critics related to the condition of society. This statement is in a line with Shakespeare’s argument that literature is the mirror of society. Based on Plato and Aristotle, literature must do and imitate the nature (Nornasari: 2010). In other sentence, literature cannot take a road outside the nature. The author of literature will have a responsibilty to create the literary works that is appropriate with the condition of nature. The imagination of author will be inspired by the nature itself. Therefore, literature is an appropriate to be used as the medium of understanding the real life.

There are many definitions appear on literature. According to Oxford dictionary, literature is written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. Based on Mercier, literature teaches us the truth about our lives. We learn good values from literature like shakespeare ( Stanford: 2005).

There are thre genres of literature ; poetry, fiction and drama. Baesd on Kirszner and Mandell (2004), fiction is a narrative tells a story by presenting events in some logical or orderly way. Certainly some fiction focuses on real people and is grounded in actual events, but the way the characters interact and how the plot unfolds are the author’s invention. In another words, the fiction is a literary works that representation of a the aouthor about the actual events and problems in the real life. The term fitcion itself is divided into three parts; short story, novella nad novel. Novella is the medium form of fiction. The content of novella is not short as a short story and not long as a novel.

There are many diversities appear in human’s life. Human being containts people with different physical form, religion, culture, characteristics and others. The differences often cause the mergence some groups that commonly mentined as race. The emergence of race often causes the fanaticity of people to their race’s member. The fanaticity will make people have different treatment among people in the world. People will consider that their group is the better than other gropus. They will regard their group as superior than other. This condition is later known as racism. According to racism is a view that humankind is diveided into some races and one race is inferior than others. The most common racism ocur in the world is between white and black people. According to Crenshaw (2000), Racism, combined with equal opportunity mythology, provides a rationalization for racial oppression, making it difficult for for whites ton see the black situation as illegitimate or unnecessary. In short, people who consider theirself as superior, think that they have special rights among the inferior races.

Joseph Conrad is well-known as a maritim author. Some of his works were written according to his own experience during his life as a sailor. Heart of darkness is one of his work that writte according to his experience in Congo in 1890. This work tells about Marlow, who get a job to be boatcpatain in Africa. In his journey Marlow found a different condition, where slavery and imperialism is conducted by white people to black people. This novel is clearly shows the oppression toward native Africa in Congo that is done by white people.

According to explanation above, the writer interested to find the form of racism in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. This research is interesting because the writer consider that this novel is clearly shows the practice of racism toward native Africa that written based on the author’s experiment. Afterwards. Therefore, the writer will analyze the Racism in Heart of Darkness by applying Sociological approach.

B. Research Questions
1. What kind of racism is portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? 2. What is the relationship between Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of darkness with the racism in real condition of black people in Congo Africa in 19th century?

C. Theoritical Framework
Sociological Approach
Literature cannot be separated from the author life. The process of producing literary works may be influenced by the sociological condition of the author. According to Swingewood (1972), sociology is a scientific and objective study about human in the society. Afterwards, sociology answers the question about how society is formed, how their work and why they hold on their environmnet (Faruk, 2005). Jdanov (1956) argued that literature must be view in the relation that cannot be separated with the society’s lifre, historical background and social aspects that influenced the author. In short, the sociological approach is the way seeing literature as the reflection the sociological condition of society in real life.

The rasionality of sociological literature appers in Glickberg as written in Endraswara (2011) that all literature, however fantastic or mystical in content, is animated by a profound social concern, and this is true even the most flagrant nihilistic work. In othe words, it can be stated that the emergence of literary work is never released from the social condition. Based on Hall in Endraswara (2011), the concept of literature a social referent is, however, perfectly viable since it takes into account the writer’s active concern to understand his society. This argument is in a line with the argument of William shakespeare that literature is the mirror of society. Literature is considerd as the mimetic form of the society.

Implicitly, literary works reflects the proportion that human has three sides of life, past, present and future. Endraswara (2011) argued that literary work’s value is a alive and dinamic value. It means, the literay works is not able to be considered as complete product. Literay work is uncomplete work that must be completed by other phenomenons. In short, sociological teory is a study that discuss the reltion between literary work and the real condition of society in that period.

Racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each racial groups possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group. Racism appears when there is no unity between superior and inferior. As stated in Encyclopedia Britannica, racism is theory or idea that is a casual link between inherited physical traits and certain traits of personality, intellect or culture combined with it, the notion that some races are inherently superior to others.

Racism begins when Roosevelt’s though who slaughter indigence of America and he stated that this attitudes belong to darwinism theory The origin of Species (1859) states that man’s body structure is the evolution of animals. Theodore Roosevelt also classifies the classes which upper is the white skin and argued that they are good human that have good culture. The black skin is put on the lower class and must die for cleaning human decline. The black skin also classified as people who do not have culture and stupid. According to Feagin (2005) , white-on-black opression is systemic and has persisted over several centuries without the broad and foundational racial transformations that many social analyst suggest should have happened.

According to Marger in Nornasari (2010), The presumed superiority of some groups and inferiority of others is subsequently used to legitimate the unequal distribution of the society’s resources, especially, various forms of wealth, prestige, and power. From this condition, white people who commonly considered as superior than black people use it as a opportunity to manage the structure of society. There are some races of white people come to black people’s country as colonial. Feagin (2005) argued that the majority of colonial immigrants came dreaming of owning black people’s farms, a dynamic that created a chrobnic shortage of white labor.

The differences between humankind often cause the rejection of race relation. The superior group does not want to considered as same with the inferior group. This rejection may causes some negative treatments from the superior to the inferior. The superior also considertae that they are the best group that must be obeyed by the inferior, and the inferior feels preforce to do it. There are some kinds of rejection in race relation. They are discrimination, prejudice and segregation. The following is the desccription of them.

1. Discrimination
Oxford Dictinary atated that discrimination is treating a person or group differently worse than others. Discrimination is a form of rejection that always gives suffering to the inferior group. According to Wordsworth in Nornasari (2010), discrimination is the difference treatment among individuals in the basic of their membership in categories. The difference treatment is always put the inferior in the difficult condition and superior in the special and secure condition. Feagin argued that discrimination is the actions or practices carried out by members of superior group, or their representatives, which have a diffrential and harmful impact on members of subordinate groups. In sum, discrimination is negative treatment with the superior as the doer and inferior group as the victim.

2. Prejudice
Oxford dictionary stated that prejudice is dislike or distrust of person, group, custom that is based on fear or false information rather than on reason or experience, and that influences one’s attitude and behaviour toward them. According to Wordsworth in Nornasari (2010), prejudice is a process that give a judgment or opinion negatively that someone is not more than their group. Commonly, prejudice agreed that prejudice is an irrational treatment toward inferior group. Prejudice often caused by the misconception between some ethnic groups. Prejudice may be decreased if there is a good communication between two groups. 3. Segregation

Segregation is the spatial and social separation of the superior and inferior groups. Based on oxford Dictionary, segregation is the action of segregating people or things or the state of being segregating. The effortsw in separating the inferior group by the superior group may comes into two ways. Thio in Muzayanah (2009), described that the first is De facto means that segregation resulting from tradition and custom remains. The inferior is separated in residential areas, in school or university, in hotel and public facilities. The second is De jure. It is the segregation sanctioned by law. The example of it is the apartheid policy of Republic South africa, where a small minority of whites dominants tha country, and the majority blacks and other mixed race have limited freedom of movement, live as, workers even school and other public facilities that are established by law for different races.

Segregation is unfair for the inferior group. It is because the human rights of the inferior group is blocked by the superior group. Segregation also allowed close contact in hierarchical situation, such as allowing a person of one race to work as a servantfor a member of another race. In short, segregation is the separation taht conducted by the superior group with put theirself in the special and secure condition.

D. Analysis
1. Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
Racism is represented in the narrative of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It has been stated that racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each racial groups possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group. There are three types of racism that writer found in this novella. They are discrimination, prejudice and segregation. 1. Discrimination

In Heart of Darkness there are some discriminations that showed on the sentences. Disrimination is the form of racial rejection that gives affliction to inferior who are black people. At least, there three evidence of discrimination showed by this novella.

Discrimination in this novella is done by white people. The discrimination is treatment of white people that gives suffering to black people. One of discrimination is explained by the following quotation: “A slight clinking behind me made me turn my head. Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. They walked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on their heads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps. Black rags were wound round their loins, and the short ends behind waggled to and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connected together with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmically clinking.”

Above quotation explain the torturing toward black people. Black people are treated cruelly. In this story, black people becomes worker for white people. As the worker class, black people are treated unhumane. They must be tortured by working with chain that embitters them. It is a very brutal and misery treatment. This treatment is clearly caused by the rejection of race relation. It can be seen by the absence of white people among tortured people. The actor of this treatment is white people.

Black people that regarded as inferior group are not cared by the superior. The superior only want to get benefit for their existence. The superior never cares about the condition of the inferior. It is another example of discrimination that is also portrayed in Heart of Darkness through this quotation: “Near the same tree two more bundles of acute angels sat with their legs drawn up. One, with his chin propped on his knees, stared at nothing, in an intolerable and appalling manner: his brother phantom rested its forehead, as if overcome with a great weariness; and all about others were scattered in every pose of contorted collapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence.” (page 20) We can see how the superior group did not care about the condition of their inferior. They were mistreated and must be overworked. It seemed like the superior left them die in their own way. They did not get fee as workers in common context.

The discrimination toward inferior group also may be given without any rasional reason. It is very easy for the superior to give any worse treatment ti the inferior group without considering the reason and the effect of the discrimination. This condition is portrayed in following quotation: “The shed was already a heap of embers glowing fricely. A nigger was being beaten near by. They said he had caused the fire in some way; be that as it may, he was screeching most horribly. I saw him, later, for several days, sitting in a bit of shade looking very sick and trying to recover himself;” (page 27) The quotation above tells us the torturing towards the inferior without any logical reason. The inferior was beaten unhumane. If we look the chronogically, the nigger was beaten because of the fire that burn their shed. They did not care about the effect of their treatment. In fact, after getting the treatment the nigger was very sick, but he just recovered himself without any aid from the white people.

2. Prejudice
It has been agrred, that prejudice is prejudice is a process that give a judgment or opinion negatively that someone is not more than their group. It also has been stated that perejudice is given without any rational reason. The common prejudice that given by white people for black peole are that they are poor and stupid. They proper to be worker class, because they are not able to be a good manger. Prejudice is stereotype of superior group at understand the inferior group.

In Heart of Darkness the prejudice also showed by the narration of the story. At least, there are four prejudice found by the writer in this novella.
It is common that white people consider black peole as uncivilisized group who do not have good culture and attitude. White people often give prejudice to black people without any reason. The following quotation is one of prejudice given by white people to the black people. “They were called criminals and the outraged law, like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery from over the sea. All their meager breasts panted together, the violently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily up-hill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlike indifference of unhappy savages.“ (page 17) From the quotation, we can see that white people consider black people as the criminal and the outraged law. It looks strange, how can people who had worked for them still be considered as criminal and outraged law. It also seems like that mistreatment and the overworked is not enough to fill their desires.

The prejudice is not enough to be given in one way. There are some other prejudices that given by white people to black people. Sometimes, the prejudice has a relation with the other prejudice. "I had no idea of the conditions, he [the harlequin] said: these heads were the heads of rebels. I shocked him excessively by laughing. Rebels! What would be the next definition I was to hear? There had been enemies, criminals, workers—and these were rebels. Those rebellious heads looked very subdued to me on their sticks." (page 68)

Besides regarding black people as criminal outraged law, black people also regarded as rebels. If we read the story, we will find the fact that MR. Kurtz has a collection of cranium in his house. Mr. Kurtz told Marlow that those craniums was gotten from black people who considered as the rebels. It is very cruel and irrational. Black African who is the native of the land must be considered as the rebels in their own country by the colonial.

Prejudiced also may be caused by the the misconception between some ethnic groups. One group will consider them self is better than other because the conception of “better” is will be different for every group. Misunderstanding of other conception will cause the negative consideration to other group. “…they shouted periodically together strings of amazing words that resembled no sounds of human language; and the deep murmurs of the crowd, interrupted suddenly, were like the responses of some satanic litany.“ (page 79)

In the quotation, we can see that white people consider the language of black people as old language. The language also considered as disturbing voice for them. They gave the prejudice to black people that their language is like satanic litany. They think that their language is better. This prejudice is caused by the misconception of white people about the black people’s language. They said that the language is like satanic litany because they cannot understand the meaning and the sense of the language.

The prejudice also may appears in the form of comparing human with animal. The characteristic of animal than commonly agreed as a negative characteristic may be given to human. The following is one example of it. “He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs.” (page 42) In the quotation above, black people is compared by dog in parody. This prejudice is given by Marlow who is also white people for black people who was repairing his boat. 3. Segregation

Segregation is a form of racial discrimination which marginalized the inferior that is black people.

2. The Relation Between Racism in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness With Racism in Real Condition of Congo’s Society in 19th century.


References :
Crenshaw, Kimberle William. (2000). Transformation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law. New York: Routledge Endraswara, Suwardi. (2011). Metodologi Penelitian Sastra Epistemologi, Model, Teori, dan Aplikasi. Yogyakarta: CAPS Escarpit, Robert. (2008). Sosiologi Sastra. Jakarta: Yayasan Obor Indonesia Faruk. (2005). Pengantar Sosiologi Sastra. Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar Feagin, Joe R. (2006). Systemic Racism a Theory of Oppression. New York: Routledge taylor & Francis Group. Kirszner and Mandell. (2004). Portable Literature Reading, Reacting Writing. Canada: Wordsworth Publisher Muzayanah, Linda. (2009). Racism in The South Africa in The Early Twentieth Century in Alan Paton’s Cry, The Beloved Country. Unpublished: Maulana Malik Ibrahim State Islamic University of Malang Nornasari, Linda Ayu. (2010). Racism in harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Unpublished: Maulana Malik Ibrahim State Islamic University of Malang Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

Racism in harper lee’s to kill amockingbird.201
Stanford, Judith. (2005). Responding to Literature. cgrawhill company

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