"Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad.

Essay by jayanithaHigh School, 12th gradeA, December 2005

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Is Joseph Conrad a racist?

Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" is considered by many as a classic, but over the years has presented many problems of interpretation. One of the most famous misinterpretations is Chinua Achebe's misunderstanding of Conrad as a racist. We should not make insane assumptions about Conrad's character simply because he was honest about how the Africans were treated back then. Suppose If Conrad wrote the story any differently, that is, not putting the Africa and Africans down, then it would not precisely reveal the history. It is impossible to consider Conrad a racist because he is a product of his times, which had that kind of racism built into its very language. He only uses some racist remarks to show the people how Africans were treated and considered back then, and Achebe lacks sufficient proof to claim that Conrad was a racist in real life.

In "Heart of Darkness" Conrad painted a very negative picture of colonialism. By today's values his novel concerning Africans is most definitely crude; however, this is only a reflective of the state of affairs at the time. Racism is slightly portrayed in his book, but one must acknowledge the fact that back in Conrad's days, society actually conformed to racism. But that doesn't tell us that Conrad himself was a racist. Conrad constantly referred to the Africans, in his book, as savages and niggers to show the readers how the society and people at that time were ignorant towards African people. One cannot claim from the following lines "Black figures strolled out listlessly... the beaten nigger groaned somewhere" (Heart of Darkness) that Conrad is a racist. This has nothing to do with the reality of Conrad being a racist. If anything, Conrad criticizes the European colonization of Africa in...