The Blatant Racism of Joseph Conrad

by Mollie (’13)

Polish writer, Joseph Conrad, is most known for his acclaimed novel Heart of Darkness. Heart of Darkness follows Marlow, a British sailor in search of adventure, while traveling up the Congo River and into the depths of the Congolese rainforest in the late 1800s. While acclaimed for its literary merit and considered to be one of the Western canon’s best contemporary short novels, Heart of Darkness is heavily debated over for its portrayal of Africa. As Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, so eloquently states in his essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” the thoroughgoing racist Conrad dehumanizes, stereotypes, and creates the image of Africa as insubordinate to the Western world. Thus, as Achebe proves, through Conrad’s dehumanization of all Africans, his fixation on Africans’ dark skin, and his “exotification” of African culture, Conrad presents himself as an undeniable racist, and this most acclaimed novel simply perpetuates stereotypes, racism, and an illusory image of Africa and Africans. Continue reading

Interlude: plugging “King Leopold’s Ghost”

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial AfricaKing Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

History is usually rendered boring and inaccessible through pedantic language and an influx of context-less facts and statistics.

Hochschild removes all that and writes the story of history as if he were writing a novel. His use of imagery and figurative language builds the reader’s interest, his flow of characters make the reader greedy for the ending to find out what happens to them.

Writings about genocide frequently rely on the shocking statistics, blasted again and again in your face, intended for you to get the true scope of the horror.

Hochschild incorporates Congolese mythos around the White Man at that time to speak for the silenced African voices. There are numbers, yes, because those are undeniable, but Hochschild understands that it is not through bolded text and exclamation marks that these points are made–- he makes devastating use of pathos and humanity, narrating the book as if it is an “In Conversation With…” As if he has the utmost faith in his readers to know Right from Wrong, so that he doesn’t yell MURDER IS WRONG every other paragraph.

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