Women in African Texts: Looking at the portrayal of women in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Dark, Chinua Achebe's Arrow of God, and the African Storyteller's Gamboler of the Plain

Essay by surf100College, UndergraduateA-, March 2008

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Women all over the world have been struggling for equality with men for centuries. Fighting negative stereotypes and male suppression, women are still fighting for a break. Within the texts studied in our class, I will examine this struggle mainly from the viewpoint of African women, universalizing it to the plight all women have been battling. These works at first glance may appear to be unbiased in taking a position as to who is superior, men or women, but on a closer reading, one will notice the dark shadow the male authors cast on women. Women are portrayed as materialistic, sexually loose, immoral, and completely dependent on men in order to function thus implying men are ultimately superior to women.

The first text I noticed these characteristics was in Hegel’s The Philosophy of History in which he discusses that according to some African traditions, when a King dies, the wives must die also.

The peculiar part was when facing their death, they “go richly attired to meet it” (Hegel 98). Knowing they will die, the women take their valuables with them; do they believe they can take these valuables with them in the afterlife? If they do, this only further supports their highly materialistic views. If they do not believe in an afterlife why wear fancy clothing and jewels? Why not give them to other people rather than let them go to waste? Stanley implies the women are too selfish to pass on their precious belongings to others. Therefore, not only are women materialistic but selfish as well.

In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kurtz’s African mistress is described by her appearance. Conrad chooses to describe her by what she is wearing “draped in striped and fringed cloths…brass leggings to the knees, brass wire gauntlets to the elbows…innumerable necklaces...