Contrasting Conflict in Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness

Essay by nic844High School, 12th gradeA+, February 2003

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Contrasting Conflict in Things Fall Apart and Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness by Josef Conrad and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe are two novels that are written to make a statement. Both are meant to stir the emotions of the reader, whether those emotions be anger, hope, frustration, joy, despair, or enlightenment. Both novels take place in the same location and same time period and involve the same groups of people. Both novels depict European imperialism in the African Congo in the 1800s. The obvious distinction between the two is that Heart of Darkness tells a tale from the European point of view while Things Fall Apart tells one from the Native African Tribe point of view. Both authors use extremely well developed characters to manifest and exhibit controversies and bring to light critical aspects of human nature and propensity. Both authors use conflict of various types to ascertain an overall theme.

Although the novels use similar settings in the expression of their ideas, the underlying themes Conrad and Achebe choose to focus on are very different. Chiefly, the ultimate conflict in Heart of Darkness is one of Man vs. Himself, while the ultimate conflict in Things Fall Apart is one of Man vs. Man.

To begin, both Conrad and Achebe wish to make statements on the negative consequences of Imperialism with their novels, but choose to emphasize completely unrelated and extremely different issues. In Heart of Darkness, the conflict has to do with the destructive consequences of the self-discovery and internal turmoil that goes with segregation from society in an untamed, ruthless, savage place such as the African Congo. Years of life in the jungle drove the brilliant Kurtz to near insanity:

"the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance...