Critique of Heart of Darkness and an Image of Africa
In the essay “An image of Africa” based on the novella Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe argues that Conrad does not treat its African characters as fully human. Achebe’s main criticisms revolve around Conrad’s degrading and dehumanization of African Americans. Achebe refers to Conrad as “a bloody racist” as the Africans are either denied speech, or are granted speech only to condemn themselves out of their own mouths. After reading both Heart of Darkness and “An image of Africa”, Achebe’s assessment of Conrad being a “bloody racist” seem invalid and unfair, as he did not account for accurate past periodical feelings towards Africa, which makes the story a great work of literature today; the evil in imperialism on African culture. The main argument that Achebe brings forth is that Conrad dehumanized the African people by depriving them of language, culture and basic human characteristics. The presence of African characters throughout the story is very small because they are ultimately just filler characters, used to create a background and environment for the story. Achebe doesn’t take this dismissal of African culture lightly, and therefore deems Heart of Darkness racist. “Certainly, Conrad had a problem with niggers…Sometimes his fixation on blackness is equally interesting as when he gives us this brief description: A black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms” (Achebe 113). The quote on the minor detail of “black” hardly seems like enough evidence to build an argument against Conrad. From the texts of Heart of Darkness, Conrad does not assign any characteristics to members of African groups and it’s not uncommon to not give characteristics when describing a group. Also, there is no real need for Conrad to personalize the characters of African people as they serve no real purpose to further the plot. Achebe also claims that Conrad gives the natives dialog for the purpose of...
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