Modern day representation of racism of Indigenous Africans and sexism of women in "Heart of Darkness"

Essay by KavvyHigh School, 12th gradeA, June 2006

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Essay Question: From a modern context Conrad's representation of Africans in "Heart of Darkness" may be read as racist, while his representation of women in the text may be read as sexist. Write an assessment of Conrad's representation of indigenous Africans and his representation of women from your reading of this novella.

Often a modern day reader will perceive the works of an early 20th century author as being sexist and racist. This is however not entirely true in Joseph Conrad's representation of women and the indigenous Africans in the well read novella, Heart of Darkness. It is an imbedded story of an adventurous Englishman who undertakes a journey into the primitive Congan jungle in order to rescue a strangely successful Ivory merchant, Kurtz, from the dangers posed by the unknown African people, the greed of his Belgian colleagues, and his own base instincts. Through the narrator, Charlie Marlow, Conrad challenges the rapacious Belgian imperialists, specifically King Leopold II's company, who according to Conrad are destroying the Congo and its inhabitants in their desperate materialism and quest for ivory.

Within the novel Conrad presents the Belgium Company as destructive, greedy, inept and an ultimately immoral force. In addition he criticises the leech like nature of the Company employees who are essentially passive and do not contribute to the company. In the novel, however, it is possible to see, when reading through a Post-colonial lens, that Conrad presents the Congans as animalistic and inhuman as a means of garnering reader sympathy for their decay as a result of imperialism. Furthermore, the text only exists within a masculine point of view; therefore the representation of the feminine is distorted. By assuming a feminist reading, it is apparent that women within the novel are presented as an inferior gender...